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A long-awaited government report on green aviation policy has failed to endorse independent proposals for limiting the sector’s rapidly growing emissions, to the dismay of green groups.

The government yesterday published its response to an analysis presented by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in December 2009, which warned that air travel could not increase more than 60 per cent on 2005 levels by 2050 if the UK was to meet legally binding targets to reduce emissions 80 per cent by mid-century.

Yesterday’s formal response from the Department for Transport (DfT) acknowledged the CCC was right to warn that aviation emissions would result in the breaching of the UK’s legal emissions limits “without further action”.

It said aviation emissions were likely to reach 49 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year by 2050, just above the CCC’s projections, although it added they could reach as high as 59 million tonnes by the same date.

But yesterday’s report gave little indication as to how the government will stop emissions rising to this level when it publishes its Sustainable Framework for UK Aviation document early next year.

Instead, the response concentrates on encouraging further responses to its March scoping document on sustainable aviation, the consultation deadline for which has been extended to 20 October.

The document also underlined the government’s reluctance to limit airport capacity, suggesting that displacing air traffic to other countries would not only damage the UK economy, but lead to “less-efficient routing of passengers and cargo, with a consequential increase in global demand for aviation and hence CO2 emissions”.

Airlines are fiercely opposed to measures designed to reduce demand and instead have agreed voluntary technical and efficiency improvements they say will begin to help curb emissions, while also increasing investment in emerging biofuel technologies.

In a foreword to the response, transport secretary Philip Hammond made clear that cutting emissions from the sector should not compromise growth.

“I believe that to present the challenge we face as one of deciding between economic growth and reducing carbon emissions is a false choice,” he wrote. “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.”

However, green groups said the government should prioritise demand reduction policies such as making the most of available capacity, introducing carbon caps, shifting more people to trains for domestic and short-haul flights and promoting greater use of videoconferencing.

They add that jet biofuels should only come into play once these measures have been taken.

Jean Leston, acting head of transport policy at WWF-UK, said the government was showing “a worrying lack of commitment” to including aviation emissions in the Climate Change Act or setting a national reduction target.

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