For the last three years, an intense series of negotiations has been taking place to help design the way a global offsetting scheme for aviation would be implemented. This project – which now has a name and an acronym (the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA) – has been refined and negotiated to try and ensure that as many countries as possible are included in the decision-making process.

Countdown to the ICAO AssemblyLast week, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO – the UN agency running the process), held an informal set of talks to move the negotiations along, ahead of the triennial ICAO Assembly which will take place in less than a month. This meeting made some significant progress in the way the scheme would function and, whilst there are a lot of technical details (the draft text can be found on the ICAO website), here we can explore the framework of the proposed scheme and some of our industry reaction to it.

We were encouraged by the spirit of constructive engagement shown by governments at ICAO during these informal discussions. Progress was made in finding areas of convergence between country positions. We are confident that spirit will continue as we head into the ICAO Assembly, where we strongly urge governments to agree and finalise the design aspects of the carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation.

Of course, trying to get agreement between 191 countries is never easy and there is a lot of politics that has gone into the design of the CORSIA (in fact, it is not yet fully decided, there are still some negotiations to conclude). However, we now have a more firm understanding of how the scheme will work:

According to the draft text, the CORSIA would now consist of a global offsetting scheme (see how that would work here) to be applied to international aviation in several phases:

  • 2021 to 2023 – a ‘pilot’ voluntary phase of countries which choose to be part of the scheme.
  • A 2022 review will be conducted on the implementation of the CORSIA, to determine if there will need to be any adjustments before the scheme continues.
  • 2024 to 2026 – the first implementation phase, also on a voluntary basis.
  • 2027 to 2035 – the second phase which will include most States except least developed, small island states and any country with a small amount of international air traffic (currently proposed at less than 0.5% of global traffic). This second phase has triennial technical adjustments to the distribution of obligations between individual airlines, moving from a collective approach towards more of an individual approach.

Whilst we in the aviation industry welcome the progress and fully understand the need to build consensus, we are cautious about several developments. We do not feel a pilot phase is necessary, because airlines and other aircraft operators will be ready and able to commence the scheme from 2020. Offsetting is not a new concept. Indeed, a large number of airlines already offer offsetting to passengers on a voluntary basis. What the industry does need is certainty, with a clear set of metrics defined before the scheme commences and consistently applied throughout its lifetime.

Since we first urged governments to develop a global carbon offsetting scheme as part of a basket of climate actions in 2009, we have promoted a mandatory measure covering a high proportion of international aviation emissions from day one of the scheme. The fact that the first six years of the current proposal is now voluntary in nature is a result of the political process. We strongly encourage all States to demonstrate climate leadership by volunteering to be part of the scheme as early as possible.

In the next blog post, we’ll be keeping track of all those countries which have said they will volunteer to be part of the CORSIA.