Offsetting allows a company to compensate for its emissions by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere. While carbon offsetting does not require companies to reduce their emissions “in-house”, it provides an environmentally effective option for sectors where the potential for further emissions reductions is limited.
Offsetting and carbon markets have been a fundamental component of global, regional and national emissions reduction policies and continue to be an effective mechanism to underpin action against climate change.
Offsetting is also more effective than a tax, as a carbon tax merely requires companies to pay for their emissions, without any guarantees that the payment will lead to any emissions reductions.
A single global measure
Many airlines fly into dozens of different countries on a daily basis, with some large airlines serving over a hundred different countries each day; they need to have a single point of accountability. If airlines are subject to a patchwork of national or regional CO2 taxes, offsetting mechanisms, emissions trading schemes and other carbon pricing instruments, compliance would be unnecessarily complex and costly.
The implementation of CORSIA will avoid the need for existing and new carbon pricing measures to be applied to international aviation emissions on a regional or national basis.
1 January 2019
All operators will have to report emissions for all international flights from 1 January 2019, irrespective of the state where the operator is based. In order to prepare for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions, each operator will need to develop an emissions monitoring plan in 2018.
Only operators that emit less than 10,000 tonnes of CO2 per year will be exempt from the obligation to monitor emissions.
There are many ways to achieve CO2 reductions that can be used as offsets, many of which bring other social, environmental or economic benefits relevant to sustainable development. Such offsets can be sourced from various types of project activities, including, for example, wind energy, clean cook stove, methane capture and other emissions-reducing or avoidance projects.
To ensure the environmental integrity of CORSIA, ICAO will adopt a list of emissions units that can be used for compliance. The decision will be guided by eligibility criteria to guarantee that emissions units deliver the desired CO2 reductions. The proposed criteria, yet to be adopted by ICAO, are based on principles commonly applied under existing trading mechanisms and well-accepted carbon offset certification standards.
It is estimated that aviation will have to offset 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2021 and 2035. This is more than the total volume of offsets ever issued under the Clean Development Mechanism or traded in the voluntary carbon market.
As CORSIA relies on emissions units for compliance, it is necessary that there is sufficient supply of eligible emissions units and operators must have access to a broad range of units from existing offset programs and projects that meet ICAO’s eligibility criteria.
It is equally important that carbon markets be informed about ICAO’s eligibility criteria and the foreseen demand from aviation to adapt their market behaviours and in order to finance and develop new projects or to continue to operate existing projects.