Tue 6 Mar 2018 – The three-month consultation process with ICAO Member States on the technical rules for the implementation of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) formally closed yesterday. Comments by States on the rules – the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) – will now be considered by ICAO’s governing 36-State Council and also the UN agency’s Air Navigation Commission, an independent SARPs advisory body to the Council. The final adoption of the SARPs by the Council is expected at its next formal session in June for application from 1 January 2019. The aviation industry has urged States to approve the SARPs without delay or amendments to give time for aircraft operators to be fully prepared for on-time implementation. Outstanding issues remain, however, on offset unit eligibility and the sustainability criteria on aviation biofuels under CORSIA.
States were asked for their comments on what is called the CORSIA Package, which comprises a proposed new Volume IV of Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention, an Environmental Technical Manual and draft ICAO CORSIA Implementation Elements and Supporting Documents. Annex 16 Volume IV contains CORSIA-related requirements for States and aeroplane operators – ‘aeroplane’ is used instead of ‘aircraft’ as CORSIA only includes fixed-wing aircraft and not helicopters – on monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of CO2 emissions, CO2 offsetting requirements and emissions units.
“The aviation sector is hard at work to ensure that operators are ready to implement the emissions monitoring provisions of CORSIA in 2019. We are currently undertaking a significant education and outreach process for airlines and business aviation operators through detailed workshops taking place all over the world,” said Michael Gill, Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), in a recent statement. “However, we also need the technical rules of the scheme – particularly the SARPs for the monitoring and reporting of emissions – to be formally approved by ICAO.
“The current CORSIA Package provides all the necessary actions to achieve this before January 2019, but adoption of the package in the middle of this year is vital.”
ICAO is undertaking its own CORSIA outreach efforts with Member States, recognising the start of MRV of CO2 emissions from next January requires an increasing level of interaction. With funding from the Swedish government, a number of outreach ‘products’ have been developed in all six UN languages and posted on ICAO’s CORSIA website, including a video on the MRV process.
A series of five three-day CORSIA regional seminars starts this month and will run until mid-April. They will be based on the draft SARPs presented to States during the consultation and will share information on CORSIA implementation requirements. Following the expected adoption of the SARPs by the Council in June, a further seminar is planned at ICAO in Montreal in early July.
The CORSIA Implementation Elements that States were consulted on are under development by the Council and its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP). The five elements comprise:
- CORSIA States for Chapter 3 States Pairs – this provides information on those States participating in the scheme that define the State pairs with offsetting requirements for the current year and is critical information for operators to determine the applicability scope of the offsetting requirements.
- ICAO CORSIA CO2 Estimation and Reporting Tool (CERT), which can support operators in assessing their eligibility to use fuel burn monitoring methods in support of their Emissions Monitoring Plan; assessing whether or not an operator is within the MRV applicability scope; and filling in CO2 emissions data gaps.
- CORSIA Sustainable Aviation Fuels covers information on Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS), sustainability criteria, default life-cycle emissions values and the methodology for calculating actual life-cycle emissions values.
- CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units provides information on which units an operator shall use to meet their CO2 offsetting requirements, including a list of approved units and the programme design elements and criteria.
- CORSIA Central Registry (CCR), which will hold information and data on operator-to-State attribution, 2020 emissions and the annual sector’s growth factor.
Sustainability criteria for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) remains under discussion – some say dissension – within the Council, although two basic principles are noted in the draft, namely that SAF should generate lower carbon emissions than conventional kerosene on a life-cycle basis and SAF should not be made from biomass obtained from land with high carbon stock.
CAEP is understood to be making progress on other technical specifications, such as the development of default life-cycle emissions values and methodologies, and requirements for Sustainability Certification Schemes.
CAEP recommendations on these are expected to be considered by the Council at its session in November, as is progress on the informal testing by CAEP of some carbon offset programmes against eight integrity assessment criteria principles for eligible offsets:
- Are additional.
- Are based on a realistic and credible baseline.
- Are quantified, monitored, reported and verified.
- Have a clear and transparent chain of custody.
- Represent permanent emissions reductions.
- Assess and mitigate against potential increase in emissions elsewhere.
- Are only counted once towards a mitigation obligation.
- Do no net harm.
To raise understanding of how carbon markets work and to better prepare States for the discussions on emissions units to be used for CORSIA, ICAO held a seminar last month in Montreal that was attended by over 200 delegates from States, airlines and the carbon markets. Presentations were made by representatives from the compliance and voluntary markets, UN mechanisms and verifiers.
Speaking at the seminar, ATAG’s Michael Gill said airlines were looking for a sufficient volume of emissions units eligible under CORSIA and that there were legitimate concerns over the cost of the units. It was necessary to know as soon as possible, he said, what the eligibility criteria is going to be so that the markets can adapt accordingly.
He also said it was important to avoid unnecessary speculation on what the eligibility criteria might be before the ICAO Council had approved them as this could lead to misinformed decisions by operators on their offset strategies. “It can also upset the very fine political balance that still needs to be resolved within ICAO to ensure CORSIA is successfully adopted,” he added.
On what type of offsets airlines are likely to buy, he said these will be based on individual business decisions as they see fit, with some looking at co-benefits while others will focus on cost. The key criteria across the industry was a commitment to purchasing only quality offsets to ensure compliance, he promised.
Following the adoption by the Council of the SARPs in June, a final letter will be sent to States who have until September to approve or disapprove them, and a November deadline to file differences.
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