CORSIA 101 – A Beginner’s Guide
What is CORSIA?
CORSIA (the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) is a program administered by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with a goal of capping CO2 (carbon) emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels. A future goal is to reduce net carbon emissions fifty percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Carbon emissions from domestic aviation are outside of the scope of this program.
Preparatory activities for CORSIA began in 2018 and reporting of baseline emissions data is required in 2019 and 2020. A Pilot Phase (with voluntary emissions offsetting) is scheduled to run from 2021 through 2023 with the first phase of mandatory compliance running from 2024 through 2026. The second mandatory compliance phase goes from 2027 through 2035. It is estimated that over the 2021-2035 time period, carbon emissions from flights covered by CORSIA will average over 600 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Who is ICAO?
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency first established in 1944 with the goal of supporting a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. The members of the ICAO are the 192 states which have adopted the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention). To administer the Chicago Convention, the ICAO members develop consensus Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies.
Who are the responsible parties under CORSIA?
Responsibility for compliance with CORSIA is divided between aircraft operators (primarily airlines) and member states. Participation in the pilot phase and first phase is voluntary. Participation in the second phase is mandatory for any member state which accounted for greater than 0.5% of total international flight activity in 2018 or for all member states whose cumulative share reaches at least 90% of total activity. Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries are exempt unless they voluntarily opt in to the program.
Aircraft operators are responsible for measuring their annual carbon emissions via CORSIA-approved protocols, subjecting them to independent verification by an ICAO-accredited verification body and submitting the results to their government. Aircraft operators responsible for less than 10 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions/year during the 2019-2020 baseline period are exempt from program requirements. Aircraft operators responsible for less than 500 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions/year during the 2019-2020 baseline period have simplified reporting requirements.
Member states are responsible for compiling the data from all the aircraft operators under their jurisdiction and submitting that data to ICAO.
ICAO then compiles the member state reports and publishes the data, calculating the carbon offsets which each member state must acquire to maintain net carbon emissions at the 2020 baseline cap.
What air travel is covered by CORSIA?
All international civil air transport by operators associated with participating member states is subject to CORSIA requirements. Air transport between two participating member states is subject to offsetting requirements to attain compliance with the emissions cap at the 2020 baseline. Emissions associated with air travel between a participating member state and a non-participating member state is subject to reporting requirements but does not require offsetting.
How is compliance achieved?
Annual CO2 emissions associated with covered air transport must be monitored and verified. Operators can reduce their offsetting obligations through improving their fuel efficiency and the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels certified by an ICAO-approved certification scheme. Remaining increases in annual CO2 emissions for transport between two participating member states are required to be offset. Operators meet their offsetting requirements by purchasing CO2 emission reduction credits from schemes approved by ICAO consistent with ICAO Resolution A39-3.
In order to be eligible for inclusion in CORSIA, Sustainable Aviation Fuels must deliver at least 10% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and must not be made from biomass obtained from land with high-carbon stock.
Approved CO2 reduction schemes include investments such as installations of wind energy, landfill methane reductions, and smaller community-focused energy efficiency and clean cook stove projects. They also include offsets from REDD+, a voluntary mechanism developed by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
What does this mean for U.S. Airlines?
CORSIA will apply to U.S. airlines offering air transport for passengers or cargo internationally, excluding the military. Since CORSIA is a flat cap, any increases in emissions due to increased volume of international air transport will require mitigation. How will U.S. airlines comply? In general, operators will first continue to deploy more fuel-efficient aircraft and adjust operations to minimize fuel burn. Subsequently, they will need to increase usage of qualifying renewable jet fuel and/or purchase offsets. Presumably airline operators will decide on the appropriate mix of renewable fuels and offsets usage based on the cost per tonne of carbon offset.
Where can I learn more?
Additional information on CORSIA can be found on the International Air Transport Association’s website.