The benefits of air travel are clear. The international aviation industry connects people and businesses across oceans and continents, supporting more than 63 million jobs and accounting for 3.5% of global GDP. This connectivity, as with all forms of mass transportation, poses its own challenges, including in the form of CO2 emissions.
As an industry, we recognise our operations contribute to climate change and we are taking concrete steps to lessen our impact. In 2009, the aviation industry set three global goals to address its impact on the environment, which included an annual fuel efficiency improvement of 1.5% from 2009-2020, stabilising net CO2 emissions at 2020 levels, and reducing aviation’s net CO2 emissions to half of what they were in 2005 by 2050.
On 6 October 2016, at the 39th ICAO Assembly, Governments adopted a global market-based measure scheme to address CO2 emissions from international aviation, demonstrating aviation’s continued and long-term commitment to sustainability.
The scheme called CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) is a global offsetting mechanism. Generally speaking, offsetting is an action by a company or individual to compensate for their emissions by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere.
While carbon offsetting does not require companies to reduce their emissions “in-house”, it provides an environmentally effective option for sectors where the potential for further emissions reductions is limited or the abatement costs are unduly high.
The aviation sector is committed to technology, operational and infrastructure advances to continue to reduce the sector’s carbon emissions. Offsetting is not intended to replace these efforts. Nor would the CORSIA make fuel efficiency any less of a day-to-day priority. Rather, CORSIA can help the sector achieve its climate targets in the short and medium term by complementing emissions reduction initiatives within the sector. The implementation of CORSIA also avoids the need for existing and new carbon pricing measures to be applied to international aviation.
In June 2018, the ICAO Council adopted a new Volume to Annex 16 of the Chicago Convention, containing the international standards and recommended practices for the implementation of CORSIA. For the airline industry, the full implementation of these standards by all ICAO Member States is critical to ensure the necessary level of uniformity in regulations which our industry needs and which is recognised by the Chicago Convention. Uniformity is not the only key to prevent market distortions, but also to preserve the integrity of CORSIA.
To comply with CORSIA from 1 January 2019, all operators will have to monitor and report emissions for all international flights, regardless of their destination or origin, and regardless of the nationality of the operator. Offsetting requirements will start applying from 1 January 2021, when flights between volunteering States will become subject to offsetting requirements.
From 2027, offsetting requirements will be expanded to cover all international flights, with a few exceptions including, for example, those to and from Least Developed Countries (LDCs). This phased implementation process has been designed to take into account the special circumstances and respective capabilities of varies States and operators.
The importance of States volunteering to participate in the first phase of CORSIA cannot be understated. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia deserve to be commended for their leadership and commitment to sustainability for volunteering and becoming part of the 72 States to have joined the first phase (as of 1 July 2018), and I welcome the neighbouring Gulf nations of Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman to consider participating in the offsetting when it begins in 2021.
There has never been a better time to volunteer for the first phase of CORSIA. The air transport industry is one of the backbones of the global economy and it is essential to the future growth and prosperity of our industry that we address our environmental impact head on.