ICAO advisory body to evaluate 14 programmes for eligibility under CORSIA carbon offset scheme
(photo: State Forests of Poland)
Tue 3 Sept 2019 – Fourteen carbon offset programmes have applied to ICAO for their units to be made available to airlines under the UN agency’s CORSIA scheme for international aviation. A public comment period finishes on September 5 and ICAO’s Technical Advisory Body (TAB) will then evaluate whether the submissions comply with the CORSIA emissions unit criteria before making recommendations to the governing ICAO Council for its consideration in March 2020. Unsuccessful applicants and new programmes are invited to apply again during a next round that is expected to begin around the same time. The applications range from the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to forestry programmes administered by the World Bank and Poland’s State Forests. The 19-member TAB has chosen representatives from the US and Singapore as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson respectively.
They are Molly Peters-Stanley, a negotiator at the US State Department, who has served on ICAO’s CAEP Global Market-based Measures Technical Task Force, and was previously at the Washington DC-based Forest Trends Association. Benedict Chia is Director for Strategic Issues in Singapore’s National Climate Change Secretariat, where he oversees economic research and low carbon technology development.
Environmental and energy markets specialist AitherCO2 said the main differentiation among the programmes is the relationship to the CDM, as a number of programmes use its methodologies, project cycle guidelines or verification/monitoring procedures. Other newer and regional aggregators of emission reduction units include the Thailand, British Columbia and Poland programmes. LOT Polish Airlines has already indicated it is supporting the State Forests programme.
Standards that are deemed not to meet the eligibility criteria can amend or elaborate their rules accordingly and apply again in the following round.
“We take this to mean that offset eligibility determination will be an iterative process, with suppliers of offsets ‘tweaking’ their methods to conform to the eligibility criteria, rather than a final rulemaking with across-the-board bans on specific offset types or vintages,” said AitherCO2 researchers.
“We expect the process to speed up considerably if the upcoming COP in Chile produces clear rules on the future of the CDM and on the extent to which the results of climate change mitigation action can be internationally tradable.”
Carbon market analyst Refinitiv notes that several applicants chose to specify which of the units they deal with are submitted for CORSIA eligibility. Some offset standards involve a variety of different offset types and methodologies, it says, but are only asking for a portion of those to be approved for use by airlines under CORSIA. This is the case for many of the applicants involving avoided deforestation projects, it adds, with most of the applicants seeking CORSIA eligibility for offset units coming from land use projects.
Although the ICAO Council has the final word on offset eligibility, observers doubt that any standard or project type rejected by the TAB will be approved by the Council.
In a working paper (A40-WP/139) submitted for consideration at the upcoming ICAO 40th Assembly starting later this month, IATA says it is fundamental that the Council remains the sole authority to decide which emissions units can be used for CORSIA and that airlines can use any and all of those approved. This is critical to ensure a level playing field among all aeroplane operators, it contends.
“If operators were allowed to use different units for compliance depending on which authority they report to, this would inevitably result in significant market distortions,” says the paper. “That situation could arise if an ICAO Member State were to allow units which are not CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units but also if a State were to impose restrictions on the use of certain CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units.”
IATA also calls for robust rules to avoid the double-claiming of emissions units, where a country that hosts emissions units programmes count the reductions associated with units used for CORSIA towards its own mitigation pledges.
To ensure a sufficient volume of eligible emissions units are available to operators for CORSIA compliance and that project developers have the necessary lead times, IATA urges ICAO to reach a decision on eligible units in 2020 at the very latest.