Today, the European Commission took an unfortunate step away from the global standards that are crucial to effectively manage aviation’s climate change impact. It released a draft regulation which foresees using the standards developed for the European Emissions Trading Scheme to the global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). This is a disappointing development in a region that has traditionally prided itself on both climate leadership and the importance of multilateralism.
CORSIA’s monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) standards were drafted at ICAO with plenty of European input. As such, they were served “on a plate” to all countries and governments. So it demands an explanation as to why European Commission experts have found it necessary to ignore the globally agreed way forward.
International cooperation and international standards, including addressing environmental impacts, are critical for aviation because its activity crosses borders. This is why signatories to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation aimed to establish the highest practicable degree of uniformity in regulations. And they went further—to bring domestic regulations in line with the international standards adopted by ICAO.
This applies directly to CORSIA. Uniformity of MRV standards is key to the environmental integrity of CORSIA. And, it also protects consumers and the industry from market distortions.
At a very practical level, in 2035, CORSIA will mitigate five times more carbon than the EU ETS.
And as a carbon pricing instrument, it covers one of the largest quantities of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, generating US$40 billion in climate finance. So what does undermining CORSIA say about Europe’s leadership on climate action?
The path that Europe is choosing is not, however, irreversible. The Chicago Convention has the wisdom to guide Europe forward. Annex 16, Volume IV calls on states to align domestic regulations with ICAO’s international standards. That is exactly what CORSIA needs to deliver the maximum positive benefit as a key tool in managing aviation’s climate impact.
Climate change is a global challenge. The only way forward is with fully harmonized global action.
- Commissioners Bulc and Canete welcomed the adoption in ICAO of these standards by stating that “the European Union and its Member States played a central role in securing this deal” and that it was “another concrete illustration of European unity and of the global leadership of Europe in the fight against climate change” (press release, 28 June 2018).
- The European Commission has also described the agreement to adopt a global offsetting scheme for international aviation as a “historic milestone” and the fruit of the “EU's commitment and perseverance to find a global solution” (press release of 7 October 2016).
- On 27 June 2018, ICAO adopted the international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for CORSIA as Annex 16, volume IV, to the Chicago Convention. Annex 16, volume IV, establishes uniform rules for the monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions from operators.
- In 2021-2026 (pilot and first phase), CORSIA will apply to all international flights between “volunteering” countries. In 2021, this will cover about 360 million tonnes of CO2. From 2027 (second phase), CORSIA will apply to all international flights, with exemptions for LDCs/LLDCs/SIDS and states that represent a small share of aviation’s activity (unless they volunteer). In 2027, this will cover about 790 million tonnes of CO2.
- Under CORSIA, operators will have to finance climate projects to offset their emissions. It is forecast that, under CORSIA, about 2.5 billion tonne of CO2 will need to be offset. At a price of carbon which would increase from USD8 in 2021 to USD20 in 2035, this would represent USD39 billion being invested in carbon mitigation projects.
- Based on the current level of participation in CORSIA, it is forecast that CORSIA will result in the mitigation of around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2021 and 2035. This is an annual average of 164 million tonnes. Annual offsetting requirements are forecast to increase from around 18 million tonnes in 2021 to 334 million tonnes by 2035. If more States join CORSIA on a voluntary basis, the CO2 mitigation could be increased to up to 3.4 billion tonnes.
- By way of context, the emissions reductions achieved through an intra-EEA EU ETS range from 15.9 million tonnes in 2013, to a forecast of 70 million tonnes by 2035 (assuming a future growth in intra-EEA emissions of 2.2%).