CORSIA: A robust, workable and fair solution for aviation carbon emissions

by Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, International Air Transport Association (IATA)

The importance of the landmark Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) cannot be overstated. Approved by ICAO States at the 39th Assembly in 2016, CORSIA is a fundamental plank of the international aviation industry’s sustainability strategy.  The aviation sector is committed to technology, operational and infrastructure advances to continue to reduce the sector’s carbon emissions, but without CORSIA, our pledge for carbon-neutral growth from 2020 cannot be fulfilled.

While carbon offsetting does not require companies to reduce their emissions at source, it provides an environmentally effective option for sectors where the potential for further emissions reductions is limited or the abatement costs are unduly high. Carbon markets have been a fundamental component of global, regional and national emissions reduction policies. They have operated in various capacities for decades, and continue to be an effective mechanism to underpin action against climate change. Costs are always a big factor for the
industry, but while the costs associated with CORSIA are not insignificant, they will be manageable for operators, especially when compared with the costs that would result from multiple national or regional schemes.

In this context, Assembly Resolution A39-3, which provides that CORSIA is to be the market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international aviation, is very important. A proliferation of carbon pricing instruments on aviation would result in an unsustainable and costly patchwork of measures for operators and for governments. The implementation of CORSIA will avoid the need for existing and new carbon pricing measures to be applied to international aviation emissions on a regional or national basis.

The successful adoption of CORSIA was a significant success for pan-industry cooperation, and vindicated the vision and endeavor of the ICAO leadership. Agreement at the Assembly was not, however, the end. It was merely the end of the beginning. We are now in a crucial period of preparation for CORSIA’s implementation. All airlines and other aircraft operators need to develop emissions monitoring plans by the end of September this year and then to start monitoring and reporting their emissions from 2019, just a few months from now. To do that successfully, they must have confirmation of the harmonized rules for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) procedures that CORSIA will entail so that they are able to put the necessary compliance systems in place.

Since the 39th Assembly, a tremendous amount of work has been going in ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) to define these MRV requirements. Through the hard work of more than 100 experts, a new volume to Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention is set to be adopted by the ICAO Council in June.

We believe that the draft Annex 16, Volume IV is robust, workable, and fair. Of course, in a complex agreement like CORSIA, not everyone is going to get exactly what they want. That is why our membership has arrived at the view that some compromises are worth it to secure the ultimate prize: a single global carbon-offsetting scheme. Any substantial changes at this point of time could upset the careful balance struck in the proposal.

As we move towards the hugely important milestone of the first stage of CORSIA MRV, on behalf of IATA’s 280 members and the wider aviation industry, I thank the ICAO Council for its continued leadership, and urge it to once again demonstrate its determination to secure the environmental sustainability of air transport.