Carbon Offset & Reduction Scheme for International Aviationpromise or performance?

Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme
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Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)

Promising decision, but will it work in the real world?

It appears that the international aviation community has reached a landmark decision on CO2 emissions. It is called the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), and the ICAO members agreed to cap the aviation sector’s emissions at the levels they will reach in 2020 and stop any increases after that point.

Only three years ago, the same collection of government and industry leaders left Montreal with the belief that they had agreed to an Emissions Trading Scheme, but the interpretations which ICAO members took home with them had sufficient variations that the consensus failed within a month. Will history repeat itself?

Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme

About what did ICAO agree? What was said after the meeting?


  • “Specifically, the agreement reached by the 191 nations at the ICAO Triennial Assembly represents the first global market-based measure (GMBM) agreed to for greenhouse gas emissions for an individual sector. The carbon offsetting system will be phased in starting in 2021 on a voluntary basis and will become mandatory for all countries, excluding the least developed countries and nations with very low levels of aviation activity, in 2027. Sixty-five countries, including the United States, have already signed up for the voluntary phases, representing both developed and developing nations and covering a wide geographic scope.” A4A
  • “The draft negotiating text for CORSIA, published on 2 September 2016, broadly aligns with the aviation industry’s call for a mandatory global carbon offset scheme as a tool to help manage the industry’s emissions as it pursues its goal of carbon-neutral growth. Instead of being mandatory from the start, however, the draft text defines a voluntary ‘pilot and implementation’ period (2021-2026) after which participation would be mandatory for all eligible States (2027 onwards)…”‘IATA encourages governments to commit to their voluntary participation as soon as possible. “Last year’s much lauded Paris climate change agreement was a combination of voluntary measures to which the vast majority of countries have already committed themselves. We expect no less of an outcome from the ICAO Assembly. The industry is ready. There is really no reason for governments not to volunteer. Indeed, the United States, China, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, the Marshall Islands, and 44 European countries have already indicated their willingness to participate. Now is the time for other states to match their political leadership, by coming to the Assembly already committed to participate, even if the scheme is voluntary at the initial stage,’ said de Juniac”
  • ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is designed to complement the basket of mitigation measures the air transport community is already pursuing to reduce CO2emissions from international aviation. These include technical and operational improvements and advances in the production and use of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation.Implementation of the CORSIA will begin with a pilot phase from 2021 through 2023, followed by a first phase, from 2024 through 2026. Participation in both of these early stages will be voluntary and the next phase from 2027 to 2035 would see all States on board. Some exemptions were accepted for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and States with very low levels of international aviation activity.” ICAO
    →  The US DoT issued a separate press release which did not really address the terms of CORSIA. EASA offered a graphic on the Scheme and joined in a press release with Secretary Foxx.
  • “Today, the United States and 190 other countries formalized the adoption of the first-ever GMBM for international aviation. Starting in 2021, aircraft operators will offset the growth of CO2 emissions from international aviation in order to help achieve carbon-neutral growth, through the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). This historic agreement was reached at the 39th General Assembly of the ICAO.”The measure is structured in a way that is both pragmatic and has a highlevel of emissions reduction, including an approach to phase-in countries to encourage the broadest participation possible. Moreover, it provides flexibility to countries that have limited capacity or that need technical assistance to participate.” US DoT Secretary Foxx
  • EASA chart:

Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme

  • US DoT and EASA statement: Anthony Foxx, US Secretary of Transportation and Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport met today in Montreal, Canada on the occasion of the 39th ICAO General Assembly.After their meeting, they said the following:“The U.S. and EU share a productive and beneficial civil aviation relationship and were honored to meet on the margins of the ICAO Assembly to discuss several of our ongoing collaborations. Since it is of immediate importance, we discussed our joint efforts to address global climate action in international aviation through our support of ICAO’s Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) as the market-based measure for international aviation emissions, as part of the basket of measures that will enable carbon-neutral growth from 2020. We are proud to participate in the CORSIA from the start and strongly encourage all ICAO states to do so.”

This chart plots out what are thought to be the specifics of the CORSIA sources of CO2 reductions.

Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme

Perhaps the most detailed explanation of this proposed scheme comes from ATAG HOW A GLOBAL CARBON OFFSETTING SCHEME FOR AVIATION WOULD WORK. It merits time spent reading the specific concepts.

Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme

→ Comments on CORSIA:

  • “’It has taken a great deal of effort and understanding to reach this stage, and I want to applaud the spirit of consensus and compromise demonstrated by our Member States, industry and civil society,’ remarked ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu. ‘We now have practical agreement and consensus on this issue backed by a large number of States who will voluntarily participate in the GMBM – and from its outset. This will permit the CORSIA to serve as a positive and sustainable contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions reduction.‘I would like to thank all those who have been part of this process’, said Dr. Fang Liu, Secretary General of ICAO. ‘This Resolution is the reflection of the spirit of cooperation and tremendous efforts. The ICAO GMBM endorsed today is an important addition to the basket of measures aviation is pursuing to address CO2 emissions.” ICAO
  • “It is another significant step in the global movement to take ambitious action to address climate change exemplified by yesterday’s action to cross the threshold for the Paris agreement to enter into force,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

→ “This measure addresses a growing source of global emissions; demonstrates the international community’s strong and growing support for climate action in all areas; and helps avoid a patchwork of potentially costly and overlapping regional and national measures,” he said.

→ Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, told reporters that the vote is a “very, very proud moment for ICAO, which has a long track record of taking action to reduce emissions.”

→ “It’s a historic moment,” Spanish representative Victor Aguado told the assembly at the Montreal, Canada, meeting to approve the deal, according to Reuters.

→ “Today’s historic agreement affirms that aviation continues to lead the way toward a greener future,” said Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America.

→ “Having a single, globally agreed market-based measure for international aviation ensures its role as a complement to our considerable technology, sustainable alternative aviation fuels, operations and infrastructure initiatives, sending a clear message that airlines will remain a green engine of economic growth into the future,” said Nancy Young, the group’s vice president for environment.

→ Some environmental groups cheered the Thursday vote.

→ “Today’s agreement is another major step in global efforts to combat climate change, and a clear sign that the momentum we saw in Paris continues to build,” said Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “The agreement provides a practical framework for harnessing market forces to limit the rapid growth in airline emissions.”

→ Other thought it didn’t go far enough.

Source: The Hill

  • “I am optimistic that we are on the brink of a historic agreement—a first for an industry sector at the global level. The aviation industry would have preferred a more ambitious timeline than is currently outlined in the draft text. However, what is most important is that the substance of the negotiating text will allow for meaningful management of aviation’s carbon footprint. Airlines support it and urge governments to agree when they meet at ICAO,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
  • A4A Vice President, Environmental Affairs Nancy Young highlighted the importance of achieving a single, global market-based measure, which prevents countries from imposing unilateral measures on international aviation, such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).“We applaud ICAO and its member nations from around the world for reaching a global agreement to address climate change in support of our commitment to achieving carbon neutral growth in international aviation from 2020,” said Young. “Having a single, globally agreed market-based measure for international aviation ensures its role as a complement to our considerable technology, sustainable alternative aviation fuels, operations and infrastructure initiatives, sending a clear message that airlines will remain a green engine of economic growth into the future.”
  • During a webcast for invited reporters on September 15,ICSA member organizations summarized their concerns with the GMBM proposal, which is contained in ICAO Working Paper 52. According to Annie Petsonk of the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Defense Fund, there is an “emissions gap” of about  three gigatons that the GMBM scheme would only partially cover to maintain carbon-neutral growth after 2020.The forecasted growth in emissions by that time is six gigatons through 2035—more than one gigaton could be reduced by air traffic management efficiencies; another third of a gigaton through a new airplane CO2 standard developed by the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection. Technological improvements such as lighter airframes, better performing engines and new certification standards—known as non-market-based measures—might make up another 1.5 gigatons, leaving a balance of three gigatons. The proposed GMBM scheme covers just two-thirds of the balance; the use of biofuels would be needed for the rest, Petsonk said.

Source: AINonline

  • “This agreement recognizes that business aviation is and always has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint,” Bolen said. “We were early adopters of pioneering aviation technologies, including GPS, aircraft winglets, and composite airframes. We continue to develop and implement new technologies, and as a result, business aviation is responsible for only a small fraction of total aviation emissions.”Bolen noted that the agreement reached this week is still taking shape, and that NBAA and IBAC are continuing to help ensure its implementation will be workable for operators. He added that the agreement will not be implemented before 2020, and the government agencies for the member countries subscribing to it, including the United States, will be able to determine how best, and most efficiently, to handle its implementation.“The next three years will be important, as countries evaluate compliance with the international carbon-offsetting standard,” Bolen said. “We expect that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which will lead U.S. efforts, will evaluate the impact of the agreement before finalizing plans that affect U.S. operators.” NBAA

There’s a lot of hope contained in these quotes and the record of effort, which was invested in CORSIA, is exceptional. So far it is difficult to discern how the offset will work in the real world. Here are a few practical questions which may impact the efficacy of the Offset Trading scheme:

  • During a voluntary implementation period, who will assess what countries are/are not following CORSIA?
  • How will the carbon offset market be surveilled?
  • Can the CO2 savings SOLD really be traced to a legitimate source?
  • What agency will police the Offset transactions?
  • Recently A4A has complained about the possible manipulation of the fuel futures market; isn’t such distortion possible here?
  • ???

Perhaps the CORSIA documents already answers these hypotheticals. Some level of confidence should be derived from the beginnings of this  ICAO proposal-the 2007 ICAO Assembly at which Jeff Shane was the elected president. With that lineage CORSIA is bound to be good.

Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation


ARTICLE:  Historic agreement reached to mitigate international aviation emissions
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9 Comments on "Carbon Offset & Reduction Scheme for International Aviationpromise or performance?"

  1. “Promise or Performance”? After reading this, I can only conclude, “Politics”.

  2. Scheme is definitely the right word for this.

  3. What the industry should do is take a page from the climate scientists playbook. It should state that it has a plan to reduce the gallons of fuel used per seat-mile from the 1980 to 2000 average. Then it should come up with projections that say it’s efforts will prevent Earth’s temperature from climbing another one half of a degree. And if anyone should dare to question the validity of it’s claim, the industry could produce an aesthetically pleasing chart showing a whole slew of arcane variables related to temperature.

  4. I am absolute agree with Adam’s approach, pronounce the fuel efficiency per airplane seat. Fundamental new design could reduce that value by quantitative leap and that influence the CO2 emission linear.

  5. The point I was trying to make was that the Aviation Industry should simply stick to reducing fuel costs, and balancing the potential savings against any redesign expenses like any sensible industry would. Instead we have this group of scientists and world leaders who point the accusing finger at industrialized countries for causing climate disasters in the developing world because they supposedly generate too much carbon dioxide.

  6. The 21st century technology allow to design and analyze new approach for commercial airplane concept with increased payload area, reduced drag and increase lift. Fuel efficient per seat would rise by +30%, and the CO2 emission drop the same amount.

  7. This sounds like a big international regulatory agency just asserting authority. Airlines have to increasingly cut fuel costs, which will have the emissions cutting effect anyway. This would happen with or without the “landmark decision”. It’s feel-good for them and they can later claim success for what was already inevitable. I agree with Bud…sounds like politics to me.

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