ICAO Curbs Greenhouse Gas Emission in Aviation

Under the stewardship of the UN agency, a breakthrough has been achieved in limiting climate killing CO2 emissions caused by airlines. The CORSIA called agreement, signed by 65 out of a total of 191 ICAO member states is the first global scheme covering an entire industry.

CO2, ozone, contrails (here near JFK) drive global warming  -  picture: hs
CO2, ozone, contrails (here near JFK) drive global warming - picture: hs

CORSIA stands for Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, announced by the UN agency International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) after arduous and lengthy negotiations. It enables airlines a carbon neutral growth and will commence 2021 on a voluntary basis, becoming mandatory by 2026.
Although specifics still have to be unveiled, the market-based scheme will include provisions to deal with special circumstances such as those of fast-growing carriers and airlines which have made significant investments to improve their environmental performance already, ensures the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a release. This shall guarantee that CORSIA is fair and implemented without causing any market distortions.

Carbon neutral growth
After its announcement, the deal was praised by many, particularly IATA that speaks of a “historic agreement” to curb greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously enable the aviation industry a carbon neutral growth. 
With CORSIA in place, “aviation remains at the forefront of industries in combatting climate change,” exclaimed Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. 
He pointed out that there is still a lot of technical work to do to ensure CORSIA’s effective and efficient implementation; and to ensure the environmental integrity and administrative simplicity of the scheme. “In the coming years we will be working closely with ICAO on capacity-building both for regulators and the industry," stated the IATA Chief.
Likewise are the reactions of other organizations, like the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany (aireg), that welcomed CORSIA as a good way to agree on a global framework for worldwide air transport and as tool to adjust imbalances in various regions of the world.

CORSIA needs complimentary action
At the same time aireg urged that “all stakeholders in global aviation have to work hard to replace conventional Jet A 1- kerosene with alternative kerosene from renewable sources.” This has to be seen as essentially in order to meet the targets of IATA and the EU for 2050 in the long run.

When addressed by CargoForwarder Global, Lufthansa Cargo spokesman Andreas Pauker pointed out that his company welcomes the ICAO agreement since it is a valuable step in the right direction. But it can only be a beginning, needing complementary efforts by the industry to better the ecological balance and make aviation cleaner and greener.

Also smaller steps can help, Andreas says, such as switching from standard containers to light weights for reducing weight and consequently fuel burn or washing the fans of turbines regularly via a special technical system as done by LH Cargo leads to cleaner flying.

Of even greater importance would be the introduction of the endlessly debated but so far unachieved Single European Sky, thus preventing passenger and cargo airlines from zigzagging through the airspace as is the case at present. This could save, estimates the Association of European Airlines (AEA), roughly 20 percent of EU airline's fuel consumption.

All these steps appear to be fully in line with IATA’s environmental approach, as confirmed by de Juniac: “By itself, CORSIA will not lead to a sustainable future for aviation,” IATA’s CEO warned. The market-based scheme “is an important step but must go hand in hand with improvements in technology, operations and ground infrastructure to curb CO2 emissions effectively.”

With the ICAO decision in place it can be assumed that the European Union will scrap or at least amend their highly disputed ETS project, levying greenhouse gas taxes on intra-European flights. Up to this point there are no reactions by Brussels to the ICAO agreement.  

Important aviation nations remain reluctant
However, despite all jubilant songs it should be stressed that some states hosting important aviation industries decided to stay absent, among them India, Russia, South Africa and Brazil whereas the USA, China, Japan, the entire EU including the UK, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and even Papua New Guinea to name a few have joined.
It also can be assumed that the lengthy transition period until CORSIA becomes mandatory is not in the interest of climate protection.

Heiner Siegmund

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