Industry and countries prepare for introduction of CORSIA but "much work to be done"
ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Aliu delivers keynote at ATAG's GSAS
Tue 9 Oct 2018 – With just three months to go before all airlines with international flights must start monitoring their carbon emissions, ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme was centre stage at this year’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit (GSAS) in Geneva organised by the industry’s Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). Marking 10 years since the industry announced its emissions reduction goals through to 2050, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said flying was now 20% more efficient than a decade ago. He called on more governments to volunteer to join CORSIA and reaffirm it as the single global market-based measure for aviation emissions. This was backed by a senior FAA official who said continued US support for CORSIA was driven by a need to avoid a patchwork of national and regional measures, adding it was essential China took part in CORSIA.
Around 250 airlines are reported to have attended industry-organised CORSIA workshops this year, which ATAG Executive Director Michael Gill told delegates had demonstrated a high degree of readiness for the scheme’s introduction.
“There has been an outstanding response to training and very positive engagement at all the workshops where we held exercises on developing emissions monitoring plans – a key first step in preparing for CORSIA implementation,” he said. “This is the first time any global system like this has been attempted and, despite lots of detailed questions arising, I am confident that the industry is on track to meet its obligations.”
To meet the carbon-neutral growth from 2020 target of CORSIA, a global baseline of CO2 emissions from international aviation activity has to be established for the 2019-20 period. Airlines and aeroplane operators are required to submit an emissions monitoring plan to their national reporting authority ahead of the 1 January 2019 start. Governments must ensure these plans are signed off, are implementing a national regulatory framework and were ready to receive emissions reports when delivered, said Gill. “More work needs to be done in many parts of the world,” he noted.
To help countries prepare for CORSIA implementation, ICAO launched its Assistance, Capacity-building and Training (ACT-CORSIA) initiative in July. Around 90 States have been targeted to receive the necessary assistance under ACT-CORSIA ‘Buddy Partnerships’ from donor States (19 have volunteered so far), reported ICAO’s environment chief, Jane Hupe.
In his opening keynote address, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Aliu said that in order for States to meet the 1 January 2019 deadline, the initiative was urgently needed and “time was of the essence” in implementing the new CORSIA MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) standards – SARPS – adopted in June by the ICAO Council.
“The achievement of this milestone, in such a short period of time, is clearly representative of the increasing focus on climate change priorities which ICAO is now witnessing in every world region,” he said. “We are seeing unprecedented mobilisation by governments and industry stakeholders to ensure that everyone will be fully prepared when the SARPs become applicable next year.”
Gill said more work was required at ICAO over the coming months on deciding key aspects of the emissions units for CORSIA compliance.
Dr Aliu assured industry delegates that ICAO was “currently hard at work” on the so-called Implementation Elements of the CORSIA package. Significant progress had been made on the CORSIA CO2 Estimation and Reporting Tool (CERT) and the Council had endorsed the CORSIA Central Registry (CCR) framework.
“ICAO’s next steps will focus on ensuring that the remaining Elements are kept on track,” he added. “We will therefore be prioritising four key areas in preparation for the upcoming 40th ICAO Assembly in 2019, with the first of these being eligible emissions units.
“During its next Session [29 October – 16 November], the Council will be considering the results of the testing of the criteria and processes relevant to the effective evaluation of projects which generate carbon credits.
“The second focus will be on CORSIA eligible fuels and work is now ongoing with respect to life-cycle emissions values, a robust verification framework and effective sustainability criteria.”
He said the CCR is expected to be finalised by the end of 2018, with development and testing expected to take place through 2019 prior to becoming operational in early 2020. The last Element to be addressed before the Assembly involved verification and Dr Aliu reported ICAO and the International Accreditation Forum were presently finalising an agreement to ensure verifiers will be available and ready.
“The goal here, of course, will be to have accredited verification bodies in place by early 2020, when airline operators’ emissions reports will need to begin to be submitted.”
This year’s GSAS marked the tenth anniversary since the aviation industry came together to adopt short, medium and long term goals as part of a commitment to climate change action. The first is to improve fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020 and IATA Senior Vice President Paul Steele reported that a 2.1% annual average improvement up till 2016 had been achieved.
The second target, carbon-neutral growth (CNG) from 2020, was ultimately for States to decide, said Steele. “The industry had a clear idea of what CNG should look like and how CORSIA could be implemented. We would have preferred a 100% commitment from all States with everything being launched at the same time as it would have made life a lot easier for everybody. But we are where we are and we have to respect the political process. The good news is that the 70-plus countries that have signed up so far, with coverage of 80% of traffic, means we’re on the right track.
“But there’s a huge amount more than needs to be done. With the clock ticking towards midnight, everything is now focused on implementation. If we as an industry do not deliver on CORSIA then we put our credibility at risk.”
IATA’s de Juniac said it was important that more States volunteered to join the first phases of CORSIA starting in 2021. “In tandem, we are working with governments to prevent actions that undermine the agreement, such as the unilateral implementation of environmental taxes,” he said. “The ICAO Assembly next year provides an opportunity for governments to reaffirm CORSIA as the single global measure for aviation climate mitigation. It’s a top priority for CORSIA to be effective.”
Sharing his government’s position on CORSIA in a workshop panel session, Kevin Welsh, Executive Director of the Office of Environment & Energy at the FAA, said the United States had continued to support the scheme, with avoiding a patchwork of national and regional measures being “the driving force”. He reminded delegates that the former Obama administration had passed a law that gave powers to prohibit US airlines joining the EU’s Emissions Trading System and which also called for the US to work through ICAO to negotiate a global measure.
“This law has continued to inform our position. What’s critical for the United States to continue to engage on CORSIA is not to see a proliferation of measures around the world. Frankly, we are concerned – what we see is the opposite. Despite what has been agreed at ICAO, we see countries continuing to consider other measures, and that’s going to be a problem and a challenge, not just for the US but other governments as well.
“Secondly, it’s of critical importance that there is participation by a broad group of countries and, in particular, the main aviation countries. There is some uncertainty about China’s participation from the outset although they continue to take part in the process. I will say from a US perspective, it’s essential China as one of the major aviation countries in the world, and certainly one of the major emitters, be part of CORSIA.
He said it was vital for the United States to see the full implementation of CORSIA against the challenges posed at the policy and political level. “Each step of the implementation process is like coming back to the Assembly for governments to agree again to do CORSIA. We still have critical decisions that are upcoming on the emissions units and how that is going to play out and that gets into what CORSIA is going to cost,” he told delegates.
“We in the US are working on implementation and designing a system for compliance by our operators that will provide a seamless way for them to file their emissions monitoring plan, report their emissions and then take care of their offsetting in the 2020s.
“CORSIA will be successful in my view because of its voluntary nature and more and more countries will see it as ‘badge of honour’ to participate.”
The long-term industry climate goal of reducing carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2050 (‘2050/minus 50’) will be an even greater challenge, IATA’s de Juniac told the conference.
“Progress in technology, operations and infrastructure – especially air traffic management – will match or better our fuel efficiency achievements of the past decade,” he said. “But our ‘2050/minus 50’ goal will test our resolve even more. We will not move forward on a consistent glide path, but we are on the right trajectory. The industry is ready for the next step-change in technology in the 2030s: hybrid and electric planes, and the large-scale roll-out of sustainable fuels.”
Michael Gill of ATAG said the target was for sustainable fuels to make up 2% of the industry’s total fuel consumption by 2025, which would act as a ‘tipping point’. However, he said, it would require a huge commitment by airlines, governments, academics and traditional fuel suppliers.
Jane Hupe of ICAO said States were still discussing a long-term goal and the issue would likely come up at next year’s Assembly.
During the Geneva event, ATAG released its latest ‘Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders’ report. It finds the global air transport sector currently supports 65.5 million jobs and $2.7 trillion in global economic activity, which is forecast to rise to 97.8 million and $5.7 trillion respectively by 2036. However, said Gill, a retreat from internationalism and a world with protectionist policies could lead to 12 million fewer aviation-supported jobs and $1.2 trillion less in economic benefits per annum.
The next Global Sustainable Aviation Summit will be held in Montreal on 13/14 May 2019.