NGOs Warn UN Council to Deliver Aviation Program of Integrity to Cut Climate Pollution

‘The stakes could not be higher’ for efforts to reduce aviation’s climate footprint

February 14, 2020
Raul Arce-Contreras, +1 212 616-1428,

A global coalition of non-governmental organizations is warning a United Nations body of “substantial backlash” if it fails to deliver a robust program of high integrity to reduce climate pollution from airlines.

In a letter to the UN International Civil Aviation Organization Council, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation said “the stakes could not be higher” for the Council as it considers rules to establish a carbon offsetting and reduction program known as CORSIA for the aviation sector. 

“Your decisions could show your commitment to stand up CORSIA with integrity so that it supports emission reductions projects and low-carbon economic development,” the letter states. “But if you end up putting out the welcome mat for bad quality, double-counted emissions units, you will destroy CORSIA’s potential effectiveness, compromise the credibility of ICAO and the world’s airlines, and make global climate change worse.”

“Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse-gas emissions, and, if no action is taken, carbon pollution from airplanes worldwide is expected to triple by 2050 as 30,000 new large aircraft take to the skies,” said Annie Petsonk, International Counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, one of the signatories to the letter. 

“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.” 

During its March 2-20 session, the UN aviation body will decide which carbon offset programs airlines can use under CORSIA, which caps the net carbon dioxide emissions of most international flights at 2020 levels. Its decision could make or break international efforts to reduce aviation’s climate footprint. 

The NGOs of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation are urging Council members to bar old, questionable carbon credits, ensure carbon credits aren’t double counted, and make ICAO’s decision processes transparent.  

“The ICAO Council and CORSIA should be part of the solution. Transparent, effective, high quality international standards – this is what CORSIA should stand for,” said Petsonk. “If ICAO gets this right, consumers, governments and the public will be able to hold the aviation sector accountable for its climate commitment. ICAO needs to make CORSIA work.”

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