How CORSIA can reduce aviation pollution

Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Tens of thousands of new airplanes are expected to take to the skies in the coming years. Without policy measures, aviation's carbon pollution could triple by 2050. Because international aviation is a multinational affair, the sector needs to tackle climate measures via international negotiations.

Market-based measure

In 2018, 191 countries in the International Civil Aviation Organization adopted a resolution to cap the carbon dioxide emissions of international flights at 2020 levels for the years 2021-2035 and established the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, to help meet that cap. Starting on Jan. 1, 2019, all airlines flying international routes were required to monitor, report and verify their CO2 emissions. Starting in 2021, they will need to meet the emissions cap by reducing their own emissions, by burning fuels that on a lifecycle basis emit less CO2, or by investing in emission reductions in other sectors.

To translate the ICAO Resolution into concrete rules, ICAO expert committees worked from 2016 to 2018 to develop draft Standards and Recommended Practices, implementation elements, and a technical manual, which, when finalized by ICAO’s Council, will form a “CORSIA Package” governing how countries are to comply with CORSIA’s requirements. In June 2018, the 36-member ICAO Council Council adopted the recommended practices portion of the package, marking a significant step forward in standing up CORSIA.

Environmental Defense Fund worked with other civil society partners through the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, with governments and with the international aviation sector to advocate for a well-designed global market-based measure that helps airlines turn away from the path of rising climate pollution.

High-integrity fuels and carbon credits

The ICAO Council now must decide whether to adopt the remaining elements of the CORSIA package, and whether to screen out questionable carbon credits and dubious “alternative fuels”. We’re working to make sure that ICAO adopts these precautions.

Analyses show that participating in CORSIA with high-integrity fuels and carbon credits can provide multiple benefits to countries, companies and communities. We are working for strong rules to ensure that the climate benefits of the reductions and high-quality fuels used to meet CORSIA requirements aren’t double counted (once by the countries where the reductions and fuels originate, and again by the airlines claiming credit for them). This is key for CORSIA implementation – otherwise the environmental protection efforts of airlines would be in vain.