Environmental Defense Fund Calls on EU Leaders to Create Real Aviation Credits that Advance Climate Progress

February 27, 2019
Raul Arce-Contreras, (212) 616-1428, rcontreras@edf.org

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Today, members of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, including Environmental Defense Fund, issued a letter to members of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s powerful Council – including France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Ireland – urging them to avoid bad aviation rules that will worsen climate change.Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. If no action is taken, carbon pollution from airplanes worldwide is expected to triple by 2050 as some 30,000 new large aircraft take to the skies. CORSIA - the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, that will launch in 2020 - has the potential to prevent 2.5 to three billion tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere over the first 15 years of the program. This potential will only be realized if countries can guarantee a transparent process and strong measures to reduce aviation emissions.

CORSIA is at a critical juncture this week: countries on the ICAO council can create a system with integrity that ensures that growth in international aviation above 2020 emissions levels is carbon-neutral – an important step in beginning to address aviation’s climate impact, or they can create a system that allows bad quality, double-counted emission credits, and secret backroom deals on program eligibility that worsen climate change. 

In its letter, ICSA urges ICAO Council members not to destroy CORSIA’s potential effectiveness and worsen the threat of global climate change. Annie Petsonk, EDF International Counsel, explains: “Dumping double-counted carbon credits into CORSIA would punch a big hole in the climate benefit of the aviation agreement – and a big hole in the climate credibility of ICAO and the airlines. It would also undercut the Paris Agreement Parties’ efforts to limit the global temperature increase to well below two degrees.”  

The letter also stresses that decisions taken in the coming weeks have the potential to help international aviation offset its emissions above 2020 levels and unleash a global market that drives investment in low-carbon economic development. This will only happen if countries on the ICAO council approve strong criteria for the eligibility of carbon offset programs, to ensure that emission reductions are not double-counted, and establish a technical advisory board, to evaluate programs and units for eligibility, that is free of conflicts of interest and operates transparently.   

“The urgency of climate action cannot be overstated, and our call to action is particularly directed at EU leaders,” said EDF’s Petsonk. “Europe has led the world on fighting climate change – EU leaders must now drive a hard bargain at ICAO to make CORSIA a success. Without high transparency standards, ICAO could become the ‘FIFA’ of the carbon markets, with environmentally dubious credits issued to airlines not actually interested in cutting emissions.”

The impetus for CORSIA was the EU’s decision to include aviation in its Emissions Trading System. If the EU lets CORSIA adopt weak rules, it could open a back door into the EU ETS for ineffective surplus leftover from the Kyoto Protocol or double-counted credits via CORSIA. This would essentially reverse EU climate action in aviation and could undermine the recent price gains in the EU ETS, which is still the world’s largest carbon market. In an analysis published by NewClimate Institute this week, German carbon market experts found that without further restrictions on offset credit eligibility, there is a real risk that CORSIA will not achieve its goals. 

By March 15, government members of the ICAO Council are expected to announce the criteria that carbon credit programs must meet in order to be eligible for use in compensating airlines’ emissions increase. This is the same day that thousands of students are expected to take to the streets worldwide for the Global Climate Strike, a movement started by Swedish student Greta Thunberg. EU governments now have the chance to stand up and prove their real commitment to act against climate change by making sure CORSIA rules deliver real emission reductions. 


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