How UNFCCC Can Co-pilot Aviation’s Climate Deal

17 May 2017

Airlines face a big problem with numbers when it comes to the sector’s Carbon Offset and Reduction System for International Aviation (CORSIA) €” the planned global measure to offset the sector’s emissions growth above 2020 levels.


That’s because we’re not quite sure how CORSIA’s numbers will add up. As airline emissions continue to grow, airlines will need to buy an increasing number of offsets from other sectors. But the Paris Agreement makes this tricky, as all states have submitted pledges which aim to be economy-wide, and increase in ambition over time. So, when an airline buys an offset, how can it be sure that the emission reduction isn’t being claimed by a state or someone else?


There are many ways that CORSIA can screw up the numbers: for example, if the same emission reduction is sold to two different airlines, or sold once but claimed elsewhere. This is worrying because: given the sector’s major and growing climate impact, it badly needs a working mitigation measure that can assure who should claim what reduction.


The good news is that states, airlines, and civil society are hard at work trying to fix this problem. However, the UN agency running this measure, ICAO, can’t solve this problem on its own. That’s why we need UNFCCC and its APA to come to the rescue! ECO reckons it knows a thing or two about carbon markets and emissions counting, and so it should pitch in to help airlines out.


How? By remembering the aviation sector when drafting its rules, especially for accounting (Article 4.13), markets (Article 6), and transparency (Article 13). Aviation is going to be a big buyer of offsets. If UNFCCC parties don’t add back into their emissions inventories an amount of emissions equal to the credits they “export” to international aviation, both the Parties and the airlines will be trafficking in hot air.
So come on UNFCCC, will you be the perfect co-pilot to ICAO’s CORSIA?

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