ICAO agrees to adjust CORSIA baseline for CO2 emissions for aviation in light of COVID-19

Europe

On 30 June 2020, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted a decision adjusting the period to be used as the baseline for measuring the growth of CO2 emissions under the pilot phase for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (“CORSIA”) which runs from 2021 to 2023. [1] The ICAO Council decided that the baseline for the pilot phase should be determined according to 2019 emission levels alone rather than 2019 and 2020 emission levels. The decision follows the position taken by the Council of the EU (see our recent Law-Now here).

The ICAO Council cited paragraph 16 of ICAO Assembly Resolution A 40-19 of the “Consolidated statement of continuing ICAO policies and practices related to environmental protection“, which defines the CORSIA, and based its decision on the need to provide for safeguards in CORSIA to ensure the sustainable development of the international aviation sector and to avoid an inappropriate economic burden on the aviation industry. The ICAO Council considered that the use of 2020 emissions would create an inappropriate economic burden on the aviation industry and would not be in accordance with the originally agreed intention and objectives of the Member States who adopted CORSIA in October 2016.

The ICAO Council also agreed to use only 2019 emissions for other design elements of CORSIA, such as the emission threshold for new entrants, and the selection of an operators’ emission basis for offset calculation during the pilot phase. It also noted that there could be further adjustments to CORSIA for subsequent phases, taking into consideration the sector’s recovery.

Comment

The decision to recalibrate the baseline for the future cap and trade scheme reflects both the extraordinary circumstances created by COVID-19 for the aviation industry and the desire to encourage and maintain active participation in the pilot of the first global emissions scheme for aviation.

Co-authored by Lucy Charatan.