Sheldon Zakreski, The Climate Trust
Weekly Policy and Finance Update – May 15, 2017
There was a monumental global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions last year. I’m not talking about the Paris Climate Agreement, but a commitment from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The pledge by the world’s airlines to maintain emissions at 2020 levels is an ambitious commitment that over the long term will require the broad adoption of biofuels, and fuel efficient planes. These technological fixes will take time, so it is anticipated that the aviation sector will first look to offsets as a source of meeting their commitments. The estimates for an offset market, known as Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), are staggering with a projected need of roughly 1.5 billion offsets in the 2020’s alone. For context, this is a much larger reduction effort than the Kyoto Protocol commitments agreed to by developed countries in the late 1990’s.
Despite the significant shot in the arm this could give to carbon markets, there are still many foundational issues for ICAO to work out. The main concern is around ensuring the environmental integrity of this market. To this end, ICAO countries, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), must work together to create a transparent system for airline emission reporting, purchasing and retirement of offsets, and how offset purchases interact with a country’s Paris commitment. The last issue is particularly critical to ensure that offsets are not double counted; once towards an airline’s CORSIA commitment, and then by the country where the offset originated.
The prospect of a large market for offset projects is exhilarating, but a smooth flight greatly depends on countries getting it right when establishing a credible accounting framework. Without the appropriate care, this promising market could be in for a crash landing before it truly takes off.
What is CORSIA and how does it work?
International Civil Aviation Organization
Carbon Offsetting Reduction Scheme for International Aviation
American Carbon Registry, March 9, 2017
Double Counting in ICAO’s CORSIA: Issues and Solutions
Verified Carbon Standard
Airlines Say Biofuels Can Drive Business Results (and Airports Can Help)
Environmental Leader, May 9, 2017
Taking to the Skies: A New Carbon Market in the Making
Arjun Patney, American Carbon Registry, July 5, 2016
Image credit: Flickr/Bemep