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Government figures to be released today will not show Britain's real carbon dioxide emissions, according to Friends of the Earth. The environmental group claim the figures would be 6 per cent higher if pollution from international flights was included [1] and is calling on the Government to include these missing emissions in the Climate Change Bill.

Aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions in the UK and has twice the climate impact because the gases are emitted at altitude. [2] Yet the Government has left aviation emissions out of the Climate Change Bill currently being debated in parliament.

Scientists, MPs and campaigners are worried that the Bill will be seriously undermined if aviation is not included. The Tyndall centre has calculated that the missing emissions would mean the climate change bill is too weak to be compatible with stopping dangerous climate change. The UK Met office define a rise in global average temperatures of more than 2 degrees as `dangerous'. The Tyndall centre predict that the Bill, as it is currently drafted, points to a 4 or 5 degree rise in temperature. [3]

The Environmental Audit Committee in Parliament has also questioned the Government's logic in leaving emissions out of the Climate Change Bill. [4] Friends of the Earth want the Government to include emissions from all sectors of the British economy including aviation and shipping.

Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, Martyn Williams, said:

“Leaving aviation emissions out of the Climate Change Bill makes a mockery of the Government's climate strategy. It's plane unfair to expect all the other sectors of the economy to play their part in the fight against climate change while aviation remains outside the law.”

UK carbon dioxide figures [5]

Since 1997 more than 260 million tonnes of carbon dioxide have been pumped out by planes from Britain, but these emissions are missing from Britain's figures. See below:


Government total: 556.2 Million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (MtC)

Missing aviation emissions: 35 MtC


Government total: 556.5 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 33.1 MtC


Government total: 556.3 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 29.6 MtC


Government total: 544.3 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 28.9 MtC


Government total: 560.2 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 29.5 MtC


Government total: 549.3

Missing aviation emissions: 30.2 MtC


Government total: 541.0 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 27.4 MtC


Government total: 550.2 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 25.3 MtC


Government total: 547.9 MtC

Missing aviation emissions: 22.7 MtC


[1] Aviation represents 6.29 per cent of UK emissions. This figure is calculated from the aviation bunker fuels reported on the Defra website.

[2] Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2002). The Environmental Effects of Civil Aircraft in Flight (see

[3] A rise in global average temperatures of 2 degrees or more was defined as a `dangerous' level of climate change in 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change', a report prepared for the Government by the UK Meteorological Office in February 2005.

The Tyndall centre for climate research has published a briefing on the Climate Change Bill, here: (PDF† )

[4] In its report 'Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill' the Environmental Audit Committee said:

"Overall, we are unimpressed by the Government's arguments for excluding international aviation and shipping emissions from the UK's carbon reduction regime. While the draft Bill contains provisions that allow these emissions to be included in the future, we recommend that they be included immediately. … There already is an internationally agreed methodology for attributing and recording these emissions as memo items to national Kyoto accounts; the Government should simply use this to track these emissions within the UK's carbon budgets." (Paragraph 96)

[5] Figures taken from Defra website:

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust