A new UK government report has set out a number of options for reducing the carbon footprint of aviation, including not building runways in the UK between now and 2050.
The report coincides with the release of an aviation forecast by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) that reduces by about a quarter the number of passengers expected to pass through UK airports by 2030, compared with an earlier forecast from 2009.
The DfT now predicts that 335 million passengers a year will use UK airports by 2030, down from the 455 million passengers anticipated two years ago.
Numbers have been adjusted downward to take into account, among other factors, the government's decision to rule out new runways at London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.
However, the DfT said its latest proposals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from aviation over the next 40 years are based on "existing runway capacity, and an associated increase in terminal capacity (and other infrastructure improvements) to make maximum use of the existing runway capacity" out to 2050.
Cait Hewitt, deputy executive director at the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), has welcomed the fact that the government "is focusing on how to meet environmental targets within existing airport infrastructure".
However, the AEF added that "for UK aviation to play a fair part in tackling climate change, it needs to be subject to a clear emissions target".
The government aims to adopt a sustainable framework for UK aviation by March 2013.
Its latest report outlines additional measures examined to enable carbon emissions from UK aviation to be reduced to 2005 levels, or below, by 2050.
Domestic and international aviation emissions amount to 6% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, representing 21% of the UK transport sector's GHG emissions, according to the report.
"I believe that to present the challenge we face as one of deciding between economic growth and reducing carbon emissions, is a false choice," said UK secretary of state for transport Philip Hammond in the report.
"This government is anti-carbon, not anti-aviation, and our goal is to find ways to meet our carbon reduction targets, while supporting economic recovery."
Source: Flight International