Global emissions deal agreed by ICAO

Government, industry and civil society representatives at the Plenary Session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have agreed on a new global market-based measure (GMBM) – known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) – to control CO2 emissions from international aviation.

“It has taken a great deal of effort and understanding to reach this stage, and I want to applaud the spirit of consensus and compromise demonstrated by our Member States, industry and civil society,” remarked ICAO council president Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu. “We now have practical agreement and consensus on this issue backed by a large number of States who will voluntarily participate in the GMBM – and from its outset. This will permit the CORSIA to serve as a positive and sustainable contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions reduction.”

ICAO’s statement says that “CORSIA is designed to complement the basket of mitigation measures the air transport community is already pursuing to reduce CO2 emissions from international aviation. These include technical and operational improvements and advances in the production and use of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation”.

Implementation of CORSIA will begin with a pilot phase between 2021 and 2023, followed by a first phase, from 2024 until 2026. Participation in both of these early stages will be voluntary and the next phase from 2027 to 2035 would see all States on board. Some exemptions were accepted for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and States with very low levels of international aviation activity.

“Aviation can now claim its ‘Paris moment’,” declared Aliu, “Air transport is not only the world’s first major industry sector to adopt a global approach to international emissions reduction, but very importantly States representing more than 83% of international flight operations have volunteered to participate in the GMBM from its earliest stages in 2021.”

“The GMBM will serve as an important new tool to complement the wide-ranging emissions reduction progress already being achieved under aviation’s basket of measures,” noted ICAO Secretary General Dr Fang Liu in her Assembly closing remarks, “namely through technological innovation, modernised procedures, and the ever-expanding use of sustainable alternative fuels.”

Progress at 39th Assembly was also made on ICAO’s five strategic objectives for aviation safety, air navigation capacity and efficiency, aviation security and facilitation, the economic development of air transport, and environmental protection.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) congratulated the ICAO Member States for the agreement. "The historic significance of this agreement cannot be overestimated. CORSIA is the first global scheme covering an entire industrial sector. The CORSIA agreement has turned years of preparation into an effective solution for airlines to manage their carbon footprint,” remarked Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

“Aviation is a catalytic driver of social development and economic prosperity – it is the business of freedom making our world a better place,” he added. “This agreement ensures that the aviation industry’s economic and social contributions are matched with cutting-edge efforts on sustainability. With CORSIA, aviation remains at the forefront of industries in combatting climate change."

IATA stated that by itself, CORSIA will not lead to a sustainable future for aviation. Along with this GMBM, the industry will continue to drive its four-pillar strategy on climate change, comprising improvements in technology, operations and infrastructure, complemented by CORSIA.

“This agreement shows what can be accomplished when we work together. The aviation industry understands that sustainability is critical. Airlines will continue to invest in new technology – particularly new aircraft and sustainable alternative fuels – to improve their environmental performance. And we will continue to ask governments to do their part with investments to modernise air traffic management and with supportive polices to help commercialise sustainable alternative fuels for aviation," added de Juniac.

IATA’s statement added, “To ensure that CORSIA is fair and without market distortions, the scheme will include provisions to deal with special circumstances such as those of fast-growing airlines and airlines which have made significant investments to improve environmental performance already”.

The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) has also welcomed the work and the agreement by ICAO. The Association will examine the detail of the agreement and discuss its implications on the future of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) during its General Assembly and AGM next week (11-13 October) in Madrid.

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