EDF Analysis: ICAO Council Must Resist Temptation to Water Down CORSIA

Statement from EDF International Counsel Annie Petsonk

March 12, 2020
Raul Arce-Contreras, +1-212-616-1428, rcontreras@edf.org

On the eve of an important decision amid the spreading coronavirus, an analysis published today by Environmental Defense Fund cautions the International Civil Aviation Organization’s governing Council against making fundamental changes that would weaken the Carbon Offsetting and Reductions Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
“Coronavirus/COVID-19 is a global crisis that has hit public health and the world’s airlines are facing real economic and structural threats. But U.N. climate action is not one of them. That’s because there will be plenty of high-quality credits available to help airlines meet their carbon limits in CORSIA’s initial years – and because CORSIA includes provisions, thanks to ICAO foresight, that give airlines flexibility to deal with the COVID-19 crisis without sacrificing climate protection.  

“EDF’s new analysis finds that the amount of credits that would be available to airlines to use in CORSIA would still be 2.5 to 3.5 times the amount the airlines need for the first three years of the program. These credits would be in addition to any reductions that may be available as airlines begin to shift to sustainable aviation fuels. 

“For the sake of the world, communities, companies, and countries, we hope the COVID-19 crisis passes swiftly. If it does, and if air travel rebounds sharply in the ensuing years, confronting airlines with higher-than-expected offset obligations, CORSIA includes a provision that would allow airlines to calculate their offset obligations for the years 2021, 2022, and 2023 based on their 2020 emissions, rather than their emissions in those high-rebound years. 

“As they move forward to implement CORSIA, ICAO governments may wish to consider invoking this flexibility provision and may wish to convene an expert panel to examine the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on CORSIA’s base years.

“In the coming days ICAO is likely to come under pressure to change the fundamentals of CORSIA in an attempt to lessen the financial hardship airlines face from the coronavirus. Our analysis shows the best course of action is for the ICAO Council to act with integrity and follow the recommendations of its technical advisors. Standing up CORSIA with integrity will result in an ample supply of post-2016 credits available to airlines, even considering the most pronounced effects of the coronavirus. The existing CORSIA rules provide flexibility to governments to address suppressed activity in 2020, without any need to renegotiate the measure in a drawn out political discussion. 

“As EDF has said repeatedly - if CORSIA is peppered with bad quality, double-counted emissions units, its effectiveness will be fundamentally weakened, as will the credibility of the UN’s ICAO Council and the world’s airlines. Our ability to tackle climate change will have taken a backward step.”

EDF’s analysis builds on a recent analysis by Ecosystem Marketplace, which examined the available supply of credits if ICAO’s governing Council filters old, questionable carbon credits out of CORSIA, and considers the COVID-19 scenarios published on March 5, 2020, by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the travel restrictions announced on 11 March 2020.


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