Aviation carbon offsetting scheme: ICAO circulates draft rules

In October 2016, parties to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreed to adopt a global market-based mechanism to offset aviation emissions above 2020 levels. T&E views this is a small step forward to address aviation emissions, but well short of what is required to ensure this rapidly growing sector contributes to the goals of the Paris agreement. We set out our views in more detail here.

To ensure the mechanism, now known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), has any environmental effectiveness, it is important to get the rules right. This includes rules concerning how airlines report their emissions, what type of offsets and which alternative fuels are permitted and what the level of transparency is.

Only offset projects which conform to the highest environmental standards can provide some assurance that emission reductions occur. Not all alternative fuels reduce carbon emissions, and some have negative social and environmental impacts. It is critical that information on airline compliance with the scheme be transparent to ensure that the rules are being fairly observed.

These rules are contained in a SARP, drafted after several years of technical work in ICAO. SARPs are Standards and Recommended Practices – effectively the laws and regulations adopted by ICAO and applicable on all their states. In November 2017 ICAO’s 36-state Council adopted a draft SARP for CORSIA and circulated it to all 192 ICAO states for their feedback. States have until 5 March 2018 to respond, after which the Council will formally adopt the SARP either unchanged or with amendments.

The draft SARP is available to read here. It’s written in the technical language of ICAO, and so is not easily understandable to most outside observers. However as an observer organisation to ICAO which has worked on this issue for several years, T&E will be encouraging states to respond to the ICAO consultation and call for an improvement in the environmental effectiveness of the measure. This work on the CORSIA is separate from T&E’s efforts to ensure that other, more effective, measures are adopted at national, regional and international level to address aviation’s growing environmental impact.

Further views on this process will be published here shortly.