The aviation industry today welcomed another significant milestone in the development of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). The Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has established a technical advisory body to help determine which emissions offset units can be used for CORSIA compliance.

Commenting on the decisions made by the Council, Air Transport Action Group Executive Director Michael Gill says: “We are very pleased that the ICAO Council has taken another key step towards CORSIA deployment. Great progress has been made in the underlying technical work to determine which emissions units should be eligible for CORSIA, including a strong package of sustainability criteria for those units and the programmes that manage them. Today’s decision by the ICAO Council is fundamental in providing certainty to carbon markets as they develop projects ready to be supported by airlines ahead of the pilot phase of CORSIA in 2021.

“It is important for the industry that strong sustainability standards are applied for the types of eligible offsets. This will ensure that CORSIA is an effective climate measure which has always been a key priority for the industry.”

The proposal adopted by the ICAO Council includes a set of criteria which are to govern the types of offsets that can be used for CORSIA compliance (known as the emissions unit criteria – EUC) to ensure that those offsets truly bring environmental benefits, as well as rules to ensure the review process is open and transparent.

CORSIA is the world’s first global carbon market-based measure and it is expected to provide over $40 billion in funding for climate projects, offsetting at least 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 over 15 years. Although technology, operations and infrastructure advances and sustainable aviation fuels are the primary means for reducing carbon emissions from the sector, currently 2% of global human-made CO2 emissions, CORSIA will kick in to offset the remaining increase in international aviation carbon emissions from 2020.

The EUC and underlying technical work were developed by the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, comprising government, aviation industry and environmental group experts.

Gill also responded to a new report by the Transitions Pathway Initiative: “Unfortunately, the authors did not reach out to us before publishing their survey, as there are some inaccuracies which could have easily been avoided. It is misrepresentative to suggest that 20 airlines are symbolic of over 1,300 carriers operating globally. Moreover, all of those airlines surveyed are contributing to the industry-wide climate goals which are in line with the Paris Agreement.

“It is absolutely incorrect to say that airlines are not taking climate action seriously. Airlines are heavily engaged in significantly improving fuel efficiency and many are making massive investments replacing older aircraft with more efficient, newer models. As a result, our industry is actually tracking ahead of its short-term efficiency goal. In addition, whilst CORSIA is a mid-term mechanism relying on offsets, the industry long-term goal is to halve aviation emissions by 2050 (compared with 2005) through new technology, operations, infrastructure measures and, importantly, a significant energy transition to sustainable aviation fuel. Comparing airlines with vastly different business models does not provide a useful analysis. If the purpose of this report is to inform investors, then they have unfortunately not been well served.”