By 2050, the aviation sector intends to cut its net CO2 emissions to half of what they were in 2005, while exploring strategies to reach net zero emissions by 2060-65
CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme
The commitment was first proposed in 2009. It marked the first time an individual industry sector has agreed to enact a global market-based measure to mitigate its impact on climate change. Through CORSIA and continued investments in technological advancement, efficient operations, and infrastructure. The aviation sector seeks to reduce its net CO2 emissions, achieving its climate targets in the short and medium-term. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) on 6 October 2016.
The observation of birds flying through the sky has prompted experimenters to design aircrafts that emulated the movement of birds’ wings since antiquity. For instance, ornithopters, machines designed to keep aloft by beating their wings, are at the center of the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus and are the subject of drawings and models elaborated by the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century.
The history behind the concept of the airplane
Research in mechanical flight, prompted by the theories formulated by Galileo Galilei, Christiaan Huygens, and Isaac Newton, changed the history of aviation. English aviator, inventor, and baron Sir George elaborated the modern concept of the airplane as a fixed-wing flying machine with separate systems for control, lift, and propulsion in 1799. He designed the first full-scale glider able to carry a human being aloft in 1853.
Their predecessors’ work allowed the self-taught American engineers Orville and Wilbur Wright to design, build and fly the world’s first fully controllable glider, the Wright Flyer. On December 17, 1903, onboard this heavier-than-air aircraft, the Wright brothers executed the first sustained flight in a vehicle of this kind at the Kill Devil Hills, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, a village in North Carolina. French aviator, inventor, and engineer Louis Blériot flew his Type XI monoplane across the English Channel on July 25, 1909. In the early nineteenth century, the first non-airship airlines such as the Dutch KLM and the Australian Qantas started operations.
Aviation sector 2020: 94% down
The air transport industry, which includes the passenger and freight transport systems, represents zero-point-three percent of the OECD countries’ value-added and accounts for three-point-five percent of the global GDP, supporting over sixty-three million jobs.
Linked to the activities of other sectors, like airports and aircraft manufacturing. Due to its inter-industry linkages with upstream and downstream sectors, the air transport sector acts as an enabler of several economic activities. Furthermore, Air cargo allows to carry out the operations of the global supply chains. The availability of flights connecting a significant number of destinations is beneficial for the travel industry, facilitating international tourism. In 2019, airlines serviced almost 22,000 city pairs by airlines on a regular basis, marking a 1,300 increase in the number of city-pair connections offered in 2017.
Air passenger revenue
The lower cost of air transport and the increasing number of city-pair connections sustained the demand for air passenger services, which in 2018 caused the industry-wide revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) to rise by seven-point-four percent. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of flights in the EU28+EFTA area increased by eight percent.
Airline passenger traffic in the Asia Pacific region accounts for around one-third of the global total. Passenger numbers have grown by fifty percent between 2017 and 2005. Air passenger revenue in the global aviation industry rose from around 374 billion U.S. dollars to about 612 billion U.S. dollars between 2009 and 2019. The consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lead to a sixty-six percent decline in global revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) in 2020, with passenger traffic going down by 94% from the year before in April 2020.
Aviation industry pledges to decrease CO2 emissions by 2050
The aviation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions made up three-point-six percent of the total EU28 GHG emissions in 2016. In the same year, aviation was accountable for thirteen-point-four percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. By 2050, the aviation sector intends to decrease its net CO2 emissions to half its 2005 emissions. Since January 1, 2019, airlines have to report their CO2 emissions on an annual basis.
As the international standards for the implementation of CORSIA have been adopted as an Annex to the Chicago Convention. A UN specialized agency tasked with the coordination of international air travel. The Convention, composed of 193 state parties, sets safety, security, sustainability, airspace, and aircraft registration rules. This is to say CORSIA is a global offsetting mechanism established by ICAO; under this scheme, airplane operators have to acquire and cancel emissions units to offset the increase in CO2 emissions covered by the project.
CORSIA’s goal is to stabilize the international aviation sector net CO2 emissions
Operators can purchase emissions units through aggregators, brokers, project developers, and retailers. «CORSIA is one of the pillars of our overall strategy to address our environmental impact. The scheme results from two factors. The aviation industry’s recognition of our need to find a mid-term solution to decrease our environmental impact and the exigency to get the project endorsed by governments to give it credibility.
Together with the International Civil Aviation Organization, we built consensus with the world governments for the adoption of what then became the CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme through negotiations that lasted for the better part of seven years». Says Michael Gill, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). CORSIA’s goal is to stabilize the international aviation sector net CO2 emissions at 2019 levels, starting from 2021, addressing any increase in total CO2 emissions from international civil aviation, with the exceptions of humanitarian, medical and firefighting flights, using the average annual emissions between 2019 and 2020 as reference.
CORSIA applies to international flights
Domestic flights are not included in the scope of the scheme. Operators with annual emissions greater than 10,000 tons of CO2 have to monitor and report their emissions. «After 2020, even if we continue to grow as an industry, our emissions will be stable on a net basis; as we will offset any increase in emissions derived from said growth. CORSIA it’s not intended to offset historical emissions and doesn’t guarantee a minimum level of offsetting, but it ensures carbon-neutral growth from 2020.
CORSIA sets a baseline above which we are going to assess our growth. It has been decided that the baseline should be the emissions from international flights in 2019. Our estimates show that it amounted to around 600 million tons of carbon dioxide. If there will be any growth above that, we will offset it». Explains Gill. «For instance ICAO has put in place a robust process to ensure that the emission units purchased under CORSIA meet a set of requirements and each program is assessed by the Technical Advisory Body».
Global Emissions Offset (GEO) facilitating offset credits delivery
The ICAO Council established which emissions units are suitable for use under CORSIA. This based on recommendations from the Technical Advisory Body and the eligibility criteria approved by the Council. Emissions reductions need to be permanent and counted just once to avoid double-counting. This occurs when an emissions reduction is calculated more than once towards meeting a climate change mitigation target. «The scheme applies to governments on a voluntary basis. Eighty-eight countries worldwide have volunteered to participate in the scheme. The operators from these nations need to monitor and report their emissions».
Traded on IATA’s Aviation Carbon Exchange (ACE) and launched in partnership with technology provider CBL Markets; the Global Emissions Offset (GEO) facilitates offset credits delivery. It helps businesses to offset their emissions through emissions reduction projects evaluated adhering to CORSIA’s framework. For instance, the GEO allows for delivery of CORSIA-eligible voluntary carbon offset credits from three ICAO-approved registries; Verified Carbon Standard (VCS); American Carbon Registry (ACR); and Climate Action Reserve (CAR). The CBL Global Emissions Offset futures contract bundles up a variety of certified carbon offsets issued by carbon mitigation; habitat preservation; forestry; and renewable energy projects into one contract.
The Paris Agreement – climate change’s goal
To limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement’s execution calls for social and economic transformation; as sectors need to establish carbon neutrality targets and meet them by implementing low-carbon solutions. As a consequence, the aviation strategy to curb its GHG emissions includes, aside from carbon offsets, the implementation of infrastructure improvements on the ground; efficient flight operations; and the use of sustainable aviation fuel.
The air transport sector’s 2009 pledge to increase fuel efficiency by one-point-five percent every year between 2010 and 2020 has been met, as the annual fuel efficiency has amounted to about two percent. Furthermore as highlighted by Waypoint 2050, prioritizing and investing in technologies that will allow for the implementation of efficient aircraft; sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and hydrogen and electric powered aircrafts is the critical driver to curbing the industry’s emissions. To conclude, SAF alone could reduce GHG emissions by between fifty and seventy-five percent.
Is the executive director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG. He was appointed director of Aviation Environment of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2013.
The International Air Transport Association
Trade association of the world’s airlines founded in 1945. It supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation is a carbon offset and carbon reduction scheme to lower CO2 emissions for international flights; to curb the aviation impact on climate change.