Aviation sector guzzles a whopping 5m barrels of oil every day, contributing to around 3% of the total carbon emissions and more than 2% to total global emissions. [s1] By 2020, emissions from global international aviations are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005.
To address this issue, ICAO, in a meeting held in June gave its consent to a new set of standards to curb greenhouse gas emissions by the aviation sector.
The standards follow a landmark deal, known as the CORSIA deal, signed in October 2016 by a total 192 member states of the ICAO. The scheme has been hailed as a giant leap for the aviation sector. It aims to promote investment in cleaner aviation fuels and facilitate investment in schemes to reduce emissions from aircrafts. Let’s delve deeper and understand the various aspects of this scheme.
Understanding the CORSIA Agreement
CORSIA, which is the acronym for Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, is a global offsetting scheme.
The main aim of CORSIA is to allow the aviation industry to offset any growth in CO2 emissions above 2020 levels. This means the aviation industry plans to stabilize its CO2 emissions and pursue emission reduction measures, such as using sustainable aviation fuels, sustainable operations, technology and infrastructure options. The scheme will be applicable to all international passenger, business jets and cargo flights that generate more than 10,000 tonnes of emissions annually. Under the CORSIA scheme, it will become necessary for them to purchase internationally approved carbon credits in order to ensure aviation emissions are effectively capped at 2020 levels. The exceptions to the scheme include:
- Less Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States etc. However, these states can volunteer if they wish to.
- States that have very less international traffic.
The scheme is slated to come into effect from the year 2021. The initial phase is expected to run until 2023, followed by a voluntary phase that will run through to 2027. After 2027, the rulings will become mandatory for the entire aviation sector.
Why was CORSIA agreement required?
Aviation sector has been excluded from the Kyoto and Paris climate change agreements. The sector was instead asked to come up with its own solutions. That’s when, after years of negotiation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) finally came up with CORSIA in October 2016 to address growing aviation emissions.
Why are the ‘green groups’ disappointed with the scheme?
With the endorsement of the scheme, the ICAO has shown that it is committed to combating CO2 emissions from the aviation sector. Then why are the ‘green groups’ unhappy about it?
- According to the campaigners, under the scheme, airlines will be able to claim credit for ‘low-carbon’ fossil fuels provided they emit less carbon over their life-cycle. For example, airlines burning kerosene would have to face reduced obligations to buy carbon offsets if the refinery they bought the oil from was running on renewable electricity.
- Among the environmental groups, the fears that the environmental credibility of the CORSIA scheme is crumbling is slowly mounting. They are worried that the changes could slow down the wider use of biofuels.
- Some European countries – France, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Netherlands and Norway – have already threatened to back out of the agreement if its environmental safeguards are weakened any further. This happened after sustainability requirements for jet biofuels were reduced from 12 criteria to mere 2.
How Countries are Preparing for It?
While the scheme is being seen as a great step towards carbon neutrality, the member countries acknowledge the fact that the road ahead will not be easy for them. To get ready to comply with the resolution’s requirements, the following steps are being taken:
- The member countries have expressed their need for capacity building.
- The World Bank plans to work in partnership with ICAO to support countries with technical and institutional requirements for carbon market infrastructure. For example, to track emissions from aviation, robust monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) systems will be needed.
In the month of September again this year, member countries will return to the negotiating desk to chalk out the final rules for how the offset scheme works. However, effective implementation, working and success of the scheme will eventually depend on a greater level of commitment from the aviation sector and countries alike.