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Target call for flight emissions

Emissions from international flights and shipping should be included in the UK's targets for cutting greenhouse gases, the Government's climate advisers have said.

In a move described by the Committee on Climate Change as a "test" of the Government's commitment to a low-carbon economy, the advisory body recommended the sectors should be formally included in the 2050 emissions cut target.

Currently, the legally-binding goal to reduce the UK's emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050 do not include international flights and shipping, due to issues with estimating their pollution, but a decision on including them is due this year.

The targets to reduce emissions set in a series of five-year "carbon budgets" agreed up to 2027 assume that they will be included. As a result, there are more ambitious cuts in other sectors such as electricity generation to allow for the fact that aviation and shipping cannot be cut by 80%.

The Committee on Climate Change's chief executive David Kennedy said there was a "risk" the Government, or future administrations, would not continue to make that assumption and the goals for cutting overall emissions would become less ambitious.

The committee said the two areas should be in the legislation on tackling climate change as they are major sources of pollution, and the carbon budgets up to 2027 should be increased to allow for aviation and shipping emissions.

Mr Kennedy said: "There isn't any valid reason why the Government should reject the advice we're giving, and if they were to do so, that would be a rolling back in terms of commitments on building a low-carbon economy."

Last year saw an internal fight within the Cabinet over how tough the fourth carbon budget up to 2027 should be, with Chancellor George Osborne thought to oppose stricter reductions in emissions.

The move comes before the Government announces its aviation strategy in the summer. Mr Kennedy insisted that the advice allows for some growth in aviation but does not influence the options for airport expansion in the South East.

He also said the UK should not try to unilaterally reduce emissions from the two international sectors, which could hit our competitiveness. He said: "If you have draconian policies, people will take a short-haul flight to Holland, France or Germany and get on their long-haul flight. There wouldn't be a very well connected economy and will you get inward investment from international companies?"

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