Aviation industry included in Government drive to slash emissions

It's hoped the UK could be at the forefront of helping drive down emissions from flying

The Government has announced it intends to slash the country's greenhouse gas emissions - and the region could be set to play a major role in achieving it.

The Prime Minister announced he has "set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels".

And under the new target - emissions from the UK Shipping Industry, from ports like Harwich and Felixstowe, and the aviation industry will be included in the carbon budget for the first time.

A Container ship at Felixstowe Port Credit: PA

The announcement was made ahead of a major US summit tomorrow (Thursday 22nd April) where President Joe Biden is expected to set out a new US target for reducing emissions.

It would mark a significant step forward on the current UK commitment to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 - already seen as one of the most ambitious plans among developed nations.

But environmentalists said it would make the Government's £27 billion road building scheme and airport expansions even harder to justify, and that measures to slash emissions from homes and transport should already be under way to deliver the commitments.

The new target is in line with the advice of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published last year, for the Government's sixth carbon budget.

The committee, chaired by former Suffolk MP Lord Deben, advises the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets.

The new target would put the UK on track to meet its legal goal of a 100% cut by 2050, or "net zero", which requires cutting emissions to as close to zero as possible and taking steps such as planting trees to offset any remaining pollution.

Setting out the plan, the Prime Minister said it would be good for both the environment and the economy.

The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

And one of the pioneers of those new technologies and green innovations is Cranfield University in Bedfordshire.

Engineers there are already helping to develop an electric powered aircraft designed for short haul travel, as well as launching the world’s first flight by a “commercially available aircraft” powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

One of the university's leading academics, Professor Iain Gray, has joined the Government's Jet Zero Council - a joint initiative between the Department for Transport and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

It hopes to help push forward developments to make flight more sustainable. The eventual goal is to have a transatlantic zero carbon flight within a generation.

The addition of shipping will be watched with interest by ports like Harwich and Felixstowe especially as they have just been awarded Freeport status - which is intended to make it easier and cheaper to do business. Announced in the budget last month, they were described as a key driver for the region's economic growth.

To meet the target, the CCC also said that there would have to be more electric vehicles, an extension of offshore wind power generation, a reduction in meat and dairy consumption and the planting of new woodland.

Our region is already home to some of the biggest renewable energy projects in Europe.

The region has some of the biggest offshore windfarms in Europe

Just last year a new £2.5 billion offshore wind farm off the Suffolk coast was completed after three years of construction.

The first of East Anglia ONE's wind turbines could produce enough energy for 85 percent of households in Norfolk and Suffolk.

And more than 200 new turbines are set to be put up in the East Anglia ONE , TWO, and THREE projects in the southern North Sea – known as the East Anglia Hub.

The pending move comes at a time when the Government is anxious to give a clear lead on climate change in the run-up to the international Cop26 talks the UK is hosting in Glasgow in November.

But Labour's shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the Government had repeatedly failed to match ambitious promises on emissions with effective action on the ground.

While any strengthening of our targets is the right thing to do, the Government can't be trusted to match rhetoric with reality. We need a Government that treats the climate emergency as the emergency it is

Ed Miliband

Greenpeace UK's head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, said the announcement could be the boldest pledge in the week of the US summit, which is expected to see a number of countries increase their ambition on climate action.

"This major shift in gear from the Government makes destructive projects like new road building and airport expansion even harder to justify. Targets are much easier to set than they are to meet, so the hard work begins now.

Ed Matthew, campaigns director for the climate change think tank E3G, said an ambitious emissions reduction target would boost the UK's diplomatic efforts to persuade other countries to do the same.

"The UK now has the opportunity to spark a global green industrial revolution, but ultimately its credibility will rest on action."

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