International aviation and shipping likely to be added to UK’s net zero carbon target

International aviation and shipping emissions are likely to be included in the UK government’s net zero target, it has emerged – but not until after 2023.

The intention to review carbon accounting emerged after ministers and advisers, including climate activists, held the first meeting of the Department for Transport’s net zero board.

The board includes representatives from business, technology, motor manufacturers and the transport industry, as well as campaigners, including a founder of Plane Stupid and a director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, which uncovered the VW diesel scandal. The team will help shape a transport decarbonisation plan, to be published later this year.

Transport accounts for a third of the UK’s CO2 emissions, but the figure excludes international aviation and shipping.

The DfT is understood to be considering the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which last month again urged the government to include all such emissions in its targets.

The DfT’s decarbonisation plan is expected to call for a change in policy, but only once the government has attempted to secure internationally binding reductions in emissions through the International Maritime Organisation, whose strategy will not be settled until 2023.

The initial meeting, attended by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, transport minister Rachel Maclean, and the minister for clean growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, focused on steps for a green recovery from Covid-19. Shapps said the board would “play an integral part in our green recovery”.

Maclean said the pandemic had led to people making huge changes in work and travel, adding: “We want to capitalise and build on the new habits people have developed, as well as champion the power of new, cleaner technologies on our road to a green recovery.”

The government has promised to spend GBP2bn to increase cycling and walking, although board members pointed out that it was dwarfed by the GBP27bn promised for renewed road-building, with cars responsible for the vast majority of transport CO2 emissions.

Stephen Joseph, a visiting professor at the University of Hertfordshire‘s smart mobility unit, said: “Ministers were very clear that transport is a very big problem for climate – and the reductions they have planned only go halfway to where they need to get to by 2032.”


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