The aviation industry must cut back its carbon emissions to at least its 2005 levels by 2050 if the rest of the economy is to avoid having to cut its emissions further than government targets.


The warning from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) came in response to government requests for advice on how to tackle aviation emissions ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Change talks scheduled for December.


According to the CCC, if the aviation industry fails to curb its emissions then all other industries and UK households will pay the price by having to cut back their emissions by 10% more than the current target of 80% of 1990 levels.


The impact of emission reduction is an increasing concern to the tourism industry. This week, the government of the Maldives announced it was imposing a $3 a day tax on visitors to its beaches, and today The Times has suggested billions of pounds will have to be raised through flight taxes to compensate countries for the environmental damage caused by air travel.


The CCC warning could also put a question mark over the government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow – something that is likely to be welcomed by some in the travel industry, such as The Co-operative Travel. In July 2008, the company made clear its opposition to the third runway after it commissioned a report that concluded the expansion at Heathrow would conflict with the UK’s emission targets.


At the time, managing director Mike Greenacre said: “If we don’t manage aviation growth in its current emissions levels we will have virtually no chance of meeting the UK’s greenhouse gas targets. Ultimately, a line in the sand has to be drawn for new runways in the UK.”


ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We have always fully supported the need for aviation as well as other forms of transport to manage their carbon emissions while balancing this against the customer’s legitimate aspiration to travel.


“The sensible way to address this issue is for governments and the tourism industry to encourage airlines to invest in new aircraft which are considerably more fuel efficient as well as researching alternative fuel sources.


“The European Union’s Emission Trading scheme in 2012 will bring additional focus to the issue and encourage more efficient fuel usage. This is a more sensible and practical way to address carbon emissions rather than the government’s preferred option, Air Passenger Duty, which places a direct financial burden on customers and does not encourage efficiency”.