CORSIA's Current State
In just over a hundred years, aviation has brought the world together, transporting over four billion passengers every year. Aviation has reshaped the way we move, but it has also had a negative effect on the climate. In 2018, the aviation industry accounted for 895 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent to 2.4% of global emissions.
As a response, the United Nation’s agency on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), developed the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) with the objective to achieve the global aspirational goal (of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards). CORSIA aims to reduce carbon emissions in the airline industry through a combination of biofuels, technological and operational improvements and through emissions reduction offsets, through which airlines purchase carbon credits from other sectors to compensate for any increase in their own emissions.
Ready for Take-Off
CORSIA’s timeline began this year with a Baseline Phase (2019-2020), when all members have to monitor, report and verify their emissions to create an average 2020 baseline from which any future emissions have to be offset. The timeline continues onto a voluntary Pilot Phase and First Phase (2021-2023 and 2024-2026 respectively), when all airlines which operate routes between two volunteering states are subject to offsetting requirements. The timeline ends with a mandatory Second Phase (2027-2035) when all eligible members are required to offset emissions from the baseline set in 2020.
Despite encouraged participation in CORSIA, the lack of clarity and transparency regarding details in CORSIA’s offsets and fuel requirements has led some countries to abstain from participating. Nevertheless, as of 16 July 2019, 81 States, representing 76.63% of international aviation activity, intend to voluntarily participate in CORSIA from its outset.
CORSIA’s aspirational timeline is well on track; however, much uncertainty remains regarding the eligibility of offset credits. Universally agreed principles such as additionality, quantified, monitored, reported, and verified credits have been agreed as base criteria. But criteria regarding carbon credit programmes, which provide eligible offset projects, and the rules for “CORSIA Eligible Fuels”, which allows airlines to reduce their offsetting requirements through the use of sustainable fuels, remain to be decided. This has caused various states to withhold from the voluntary phases of the program and advocate towards advancing their best interests in the carbon offset market.
Taking this into consideration, CORSIA has introduced the Technical Advisory Body (TAB) charged with applying the Emissions Units Criteria to develop a set of recommended offset credit programs for eligibility in CORSIA. The TAB role is crucial to determine the best path forward in creating a robust global and fair system that ensures CORSIA’s goal of carbon neutral growth as of 2020.
Best Cruise Attitude
CORSIA is well under way to regulate global emissions from international aviation. The scheme has seen great participation from over three quarters of its members in the voluntary phase. However, swift and efficient action is required before its first reporting pilot phase. For the scheme to be taken seriously, clearly defined and robust methodologies must be determined that encompass the diverse goals of its member states. These methodologies must guarantee cooperation between its members and promote equal opportunities for its members to benefit from the carbon offset credit scheme.