In October 2013, the 38th Session of the ICAO Assembly adopted Resolution A38-18, which resolved that ICAO and its Member States, with relevant organizations, would work together to strive to achieve a collective medium term global aspirational goal of keeping the global net CO 2 emissions from international aviation from 2020 at the same level (so-called “carbon neutral growth from 2020”).

The Assembly also defined a basket of measures designed to help achieve ICAO’s global aspirational goal. This basket includes aircraft technologies (such as lighter airframes, higher engine performance and new certification standards), operational improvements (e.g. improved ground operations and air traffic management), sustainable alternative fuels, and market-based measures (MBMs).

The aggregate environmental benefit achieved by non-MBM measures will be insufficient for the international aviation sector to reach its aspirational goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020. A global MBM scheme complements a broader package of measures to achieve the aspirational goal. This is a preferred approach than having a patchwork of regional and local measures that are not harmonized and could create inefficiencies in the system without any certainty of delivering environmental benefits.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) was approved by the 39th session of the ICAO Assembly in October 2016.

States that voluntarily decide to participate in the CORSIA may join the scheme from the beginning of a given year, and should notify ICAO of their decision to join by June 30 the preceding year.

In addition to the fundamental importance that States attribute to the protection of the environment and in particular the importance of taking action to tackle climate change, there are 3 key reasons for joining CORSIA:

  1. Climate change is a global problem, which requires global efforts. The CORSIA is a global scheme for the global international aviation industry. The more States join the CORSIA, the more emissions are covered by the scheme (higher environmental integrity is achieved). Each State participating in the CORSIA brings us closer to meeting the ICAO global aspirational goal of carbon neutral growth from 2020. Even if a State does not have aircraft operators registered in the State (and therefore no compliance cost is incurred), the State’s participation in the scheme will add those routes operated by foreign aircraft operators between the State and other participating States, thus increasing the overall emissions coverage of the scheme. States with particular interest in eco-tourism would also benefit from greening their air transport connection.
  2. States that voluntarily participate in the pilot phase of the CORSIA (from 2021 through 2023) and require assistance will be given priority in capacity building and assistance, with a view to enabling the smooth implementation of the CORSIA and also in the spirit of the “No Country Left Behind” initiative. Building upon the experience in previous capacity building and assistance initiatives, this can create further synergies for the improvement of the overall environmental performance in those States.
  3. Assembly Resolution A39-3 requests the Council to promote the use of emissions units that benefit developing States. Participating in the CORSIA will increase the demand for the emissions units to be purchased by aircraft operators, thus increasing incentives to invest in emissions reduction projects in the participating States.

In addition, the two Resolutions A39-2 (Consolidated statement of continuing ICAO policies and practices related to environmental protection – Climate change) and A393 (Consolidated statement of continuing ICAO policies and practices related to environmental protection Global Market-based Measure (MBM) scheme), requested ICAO to further support States’ capacity-building activities in the area of civil aviation related climate change.

As a follow-up of these resolutions, ICAO has organized five seminars on the ICAO States’ Action Plan initiative and on the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) in all ICAO regions.

The objectives of these ICAO Regional Seminars were to:

  • provide national action plan focal points and aviation industry stakeholders with practical input on the calculation of the CO 2 emissions baseline and other quantification aspects;
  • share information on CORSIA’s design elements and implementation aspects, including the work being undertaken on the development of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and guidance material for CORSIA implementation; and
  • provide an opportunity for States to share their existing readiness to implement CORSIA and conduct an assessment of assistance needs.

Prior to these events, State participants to the ICAO Regional Seminars have been encouraged to respond to a questionnaire related to the implementation of CORSIA. The responses to this questionnaire will be used to assess the level of States’ experience and readiness in the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of aviation CO 2 emissions, and better plan ICAO’s capacity building assistance to States for the CORSIA implementation.

The CORSIA seminar for the European and North Atlantic Regions was organized in Bonn, Germany from 3 to 6 April 2017 with the support of the Government of Germany.

More than 120 participants representing Governments, Civil Aviation Authorities, Industry and civil society attended this seminar and participated in the several interactive sessions to better understand the different requirements of the CORSIA implementation.

This article was originally written for the ICAO EUR/NAT Office’s Newsletter (Issue 1) on May 2017. A full list of their newsletters can be found here