The aviation industry has been under long-term pressure to reduce its contribution to climate change – from governments, stakeholders and the public. This briefing paper provides an overview and analysis of UK and international policies to decarbonise the aviation sector, including market-based measures, technological solutions and demand management.
UK policy on climate change
Climate change policy can broadly be described as relating to mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) or adaptation (adjusting to actual or expected climate change).
The Climate Change Act 2008 (as amended) provides the framework for UK climate change policy. It established long-term statutory targets for the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (otherwise known as decarbonisation). This requires policies to reduce emissions across the economy. The Act also established the Committee on Climate Change as an independent body to advise the Government and put in place the framework to promote adaptation action.
Some overarching briefings, reports and resources on climate change mitigation and adaptation are included below. Due to the wide-ranging nature of this topic, sector-specific resources are not included on this page.
House of Commons Library briefings
- Library Insight on Acting on climate change: The plan for net zero emissions in the UK (20 December 2019): provides a short overview of net zero and what is likely to lead the debate in the new Parliament, including policies for reducing emissions in key sectors like transport, energy, housing and agriculture.
- Library Briefing paper on UK Carbon Budgets (9 July 2019): provides an overview of carbon budgets, decarbonisation, UK Government plans and progress against the targets.
- Library Briefing paper on Net Zero in the UK (16 December 2019): provides an explanation of the introduction of the UK’s net zero by 2050 target, including the context for the emissions reduction target and a brief overview of relevant commentary and analysis of the Government’s proposals.
- Library Insight on Net Zero: a new UK climate change target? provides background to the Government’s decision to amend the Climate Change Act 2008.
- POSTnote on Limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C (11 February 2019).
- Library debate pack on Climate Justice (3 February 2020)
House of Lords Library Briefings
- Library Briefing on Net Zero Carbon Emissions Target and Climate Change: role of technological and lifestyle efforts (30 January 2020)
- Library Briefing on Protecting and Representing Future Generations in Policy-making (13 June 2019) – see section 5 for discussion of climate change.
- Library Briefing on Threats Presented by Climate Change (17 January 2019).
Government guidance and independent advice
- The Gov.uk pages on climate change explained provides the Government’s overview of the causes and impacts of climate change, as well as the mitigation and adaptation action that is being taken by the UK Government to tackle climate change.
- The Gov.uk pages on International climate finance provides the UK government’s overview of its commitment to support developing countries to respond to the challenges and opportunities of climate change.
- The Gov.uk pages on COP26 provide the latest information on preparations for the 2020 climate change conference.
- The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the independent statutory body set up to advise the Government on climate change. The Committee has published a number of reports, including:
- The Committee on Climate Change has an Adaptation sub-committee which provides advice to the Government on climate change risks and opportunities for the UK through the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, and reports to Parliament on progress on adaptation in England every two years.
EU and Brexit
As an EU member state, the UK participates in EU mechanisms and is required to meet EU targets related to climate change.
- Library Briefing paper on Brexit: energy and climate change (see section 6) (5 September 2019): discusses key climate change policy in the UK, the status of related Brexit negotiations and the possible impact of Brexit on these policy areas, including in relation to a no deal scenario.
- Library Briefing paper on the UK-EU future relationship negotiations: Level playing field (17 March 2020) (see section 8): discusses position of EU and UK on negotiating a future relationship on climate change.
International climate change conferences
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the 1992 Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It entered into force in 1994 and has been ratified by 196 States (including both the EU and the UK) which each constitute the “Parties” to the Convention. The objective of the Treaty, set out in article 2 of the Convention, is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
Every year a Conference of the Parties takes place (known as COPs).
- 2020: The UK, in partnership with Italy, will host the 2020 climate change conference in Glasgow. The Library Briefing Paper on COP 26: the 2020 climate change conference, Glasgow, UK (24 March 2020) provides more information.
- 2019: The Santiago climate change conference took place in Madrid from 2-15 December 2019. The Library Briefing Paper on Chile Madrid climate change conference: COP25 (23 December 2019) provides more detail.
- 2018: Library Briefing Paper on the Climate change conference (COP24), Katowice, Poland
- 2017: COP 23 took place on 5-16 November 2017 in Bonn, Germany and was presided over by Fiji. More information is available on the UNFCCC page on COP23.
- 2016: Library Briefing Paper on the Paris Agreement and Marrakech Climate change conference (COP22) (25 November 2016)
- 2015: Library Briefing Paper on the Paris Climate change conference (COP 21) (27 September 2016)
The Climate and Ecology Bill aims to set new legally binding environment and climate objectives for the UK and create a Citizen's Assembly to support the Government in meeting those objectives.
This page summarises the Commons Library publications on energy policy. The overview briefing paper provides background on energy in the UK, the basis for energy policy, and a timeline of significant developments in energy policy.