CORSIA is coming- what is it and what should you do

Countries covered by CORSIA (blue) and not(Gray) in CO2 reduction effort
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IATA: Greater urgency required to tackle emissions challenge

Countdown to Intl. Aviation Emissions Scheme Begins

 Carbon Offsets, Market Based

 20% Gap in CO2 reduction Coverage

At the recent Global Aviation Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, the primary topic was the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). It is the first global market-based measure to attempt to contain aviation emissions.

The much-opposed EC’s Emissions Trading Scheme is different. This ICAO agreement is based on each Member Country deciding whether to agree to this “Scheme”. If yes, its airlines, flying its flag, must offset their excess emissions above the 2020 baseline levels by purchasing qualifying carbon offset credits from greenhouse gas reduction and limitation projects in other industries.

The first two phases of CORSIA, from 2021 to 2026, will be voluntary and countries may join or opt out of the scheme at any time. From 2027 to 2035 it will be mandatory, except for those countries, flights and operators specifically exempt from (and not voluntarily participating in) the scheme. The terms, conditions and exceptions are quite lengthy, but well described here.

All of the parties in the initial graphic attended this conference.

The keynote speeches were given by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO and Michael Gill, ATAG executive director. Juniac represents the airlines of the world and Gill leads a collection of airlines, airports, manufacturers, ATC management organizations, unions, chambers of commerce, travel & tourism organizations, ground transportation companies, communications firms and investment firms. The airlines are represented in both so the messages are, not surprisingly, very different.

The IATA presentation emphasized the following points:

“CORSIA was a historic demonstration of what can be achieved when governments and industry work together. Implementing it will be a critical enabler of aviation’s commitment to carbon-neutral growth from 2020. But our ultimate goal is much more ambitious—cutting net emissions to half their 2005 levels by 2050. Along with implementing CORSIA we must move much faster on key issues such as the development of sustainable aviation fuels and the reform of air traffic management.”

  • Broadening the coverage of CORSIA: With 72 countries set to volunteer from the initial voluntary period (commencing in 2021) CORSIA will cover more than 80% of international aviation. “That’s an impressive start. But CORSIA will be an even bigger success if more countries join in. Now is the time for the industry, along with those governments already on board, to step up efforts to broaden participation,” said de Juniac.
  • Preparing for CORSIA implementation: Airlines will need to establish systems for monitoring, and verification of carbon output; and for the purchase of offsets. It is important that governments finalize the technical details of CORSIA early on so that these systems are ready when CORSIA is implemented.
  • Promoting the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and new technologies:  Airlines are increasing the numbers of commercial flights using sustainable fuel year-on-year. But production levels at competitive cost are only able to satisfy a small portion of flights. “Our call for government action on SAF is clear: they should be given the same incentives as alternative fuels for other sectors. And we have also made it clear that we are not interested in alternative fuels that disturb the ecological balance,” said de Juniac.
  • Improving Infrastructure: Significant emissions reductions could be delivered by improving infrastructure efficiency, particularly air traffic management. “Air navigation services remain stuck in the architecture of the mid-20th century, while aircraft embrace the technology of the 21st century. The political issues which create artificial borders in the sky must be tackled to unlock emissions savings and generate economic opportunities.”


Mr. Gill made the following points:

  • “[Operators] included in CORSIAwill need to offset their emissions from January 1, 2021, but the scheme comes into effect before then, with compliance needing to begin as early as one year from now.”
  • Not enough airlines and governments are aware that there are two parts of CORSIA: the monitoring of emissions, and the offsetting…All [operators] that fly international routes will need to start monitoring and reporting their fuel use to governments from 2019, with very few exceptions. This applies whether their government has signed up to volunteer for the CORSIAor not.”
  • ATAGis working with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and regional associations to raise awareness. The “Countdown to CORSIA” campaign will hold workshops and prepare training toolkits for aircraft operators that need to comply. ATAG is organizing regional workshops in January and February 2018 supported by IBAC in Shanghai, Amman, Johannesburg, Miami, Singapore, Accra, Buenos Aires and Geneva.
  • “We are very pleased to see 72 states now volunteering to join CORSIAfrom the beginning…This means over 80 percent of the growth in aviation CO2 after 2020 will be offset. We repeat our call to all other governments to volunteer,” concluded Gill. “Let’s try to get as many of the 191 ICAO member states on board as possible.”

The common theme is that only 72 of the 191 ICAO members have agreed to CORSIA. Some, not all of that shortfall is attributable to exceptions– countries claiming a minimal share in the aviation industry, least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS), and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), unless they wish to participate. The countries shown in GRAY in the map are not, yet participating:



The 72 signatories are listed in this ICAO web page.There’s a shortfall of over 100 ICAO members. Brazil, for example, has decided not to participate even though its flights are forecast to double by 2034. An expert opined, “If countries like Brazil don’t participate, we will have to admit we won’t meet our goals.” 

While some of the other participants (see the initial graphic) look upon CORSIA favorably, some are concerned about the GAPS mentioned by Juniac and Gill.

Here are two slides from a slide show by the American Carbon Registry which show the pinch of the math:


As the world’s flights increase, the gap of CO² coverage decreases; thus,pressure on other elements of the reduction effort increases. Some of the increase in the shortfall may be attributable to the nations not participating in CORSIA.








The Environmental Defense Fund has created an interactive graphic which shows the impact of each absent country

The addition of a few countries, Russia, the Middle East, India and Brazil, would make the goals more achievable; so, efforts to recruit marginal Members should be a priority.

Many in the environmental community have their doubts about CORSIA’s efficacy. The ability of technology and operational measures to reduce the emissions gap is limited, said Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), which is one of six members of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), the only NGO accredited as an observer at ICAO. To rely on sustainable alternative fuels alone would require around 170 new biorefineries at a total capital cost of $15-16 billion every year, according to ICAO’s own estimates, he said.


CORSIA will become a word of common use by all in aviation. Understanding its impact, seeking ways that your company can comply and pressuring the countries absent from the agreement MUST BE DONE NOW. Waiting until its impacts become operative may lead to reduction of aviation or even the death knell of this global enterprise.




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