The European Commission’s Decision to Support a Revised CORSIA 2019 Baseline

What is CORSIA?

CORSIA was designed by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and stands for Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

It’s a global market-based measure designed to offset international aviation CO2 emissions to help stabilize emission levels from 2020 onwards. Through this measure, offsetting of CO2 will be achieved through the acquisition and cancelation of emissions units from the global carbon market by airplane operators.” (ICAO 2017)

CORSIA vs. EU ETS:

EU ETS (European Emissions Trading System) was designed and adopted by the EU Member States and only regulates flights within the EEA (both international and domestic). It is a cap-and-trade system for trading carbon allowances by over-and-under-emitters. Some airline associations have argued that because this system only covers flights within the EEA that it could be completely replaced with CORSIA, rather than adding additional administrative work to airlines that operate flights to and from Europe. However, the European Commission, and supporters of EU ETS for Aviation, would argue that CORSIA does not include domestic flights and its baseline is much higher than the one in EU ETS for Aviation, which is why a complete discontinuation of EU ETS for Aviation should not be considered.

The Current Discussion:

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, many industries have voiced a need for changing their protocol and operational practices. The aviation industry is at the forefront of this, especially because 2020 is a critical year for them. The CORSIA mandate, as originally drafted in 2016, would require all airlines in the scheme to offset their carbon emissions above an averaged 2019 and 2020 baseline. However, in light of the almost complete halt of aviation traffic, this baseline will be significantly lower than if it was calculated in a non-COVID operational capacity. IATA estimated that a 2019 and 2020 baseline would be roughly 30% more stringent than originally anticipated pre-COVID-19 pandemic, therefore IATA has suggested changing the baseline to 2019 only. This suggestion hasn’t gone uncontested, ICAO’s environmental committee, CAEP, completed their own analysis and found that allowing this deviation would reduce the offsetting potential to zero for the pilot phase starting next year. In addition, CAEP concluded that overall it would reduce the positive impact of CORSIA by 9 to 32 percent in all of its phases till 2035. Some NGOs, supported by analysis by Oeko-Institut have urged the ICAO Council to not make any changes at this moment, but rather to wait until the scheme’s first review in 2022.

Something to note, the current 36-member ICAO Council includes 8 European countries. A decision should be made by the end of June, after the Council’s 220th session, and formal adoption will happen in late October 2020. The 36 States include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States. Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Zambia, Finland, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Paraguay, Peru, Sudan, and Tunisia were just added in 2019.

The European Commission has decided to support the aviation industry’s request to adopt only 2019 recorded emissions as the new baseline. This is to support the heavily hit aviation industry and ensure other states’ support and participation in CORSIA.

The official ICAO Council meeting begun June 8 and concludes June 26 and should determine the association’s final ruling.

If you have additional questions about this topic, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Ayesha to discuss further: ayesha.andrade@flygreenalliance.org.

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