The European Council wants to change the reference period used for measuring carbon dioxide emissions growth under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
Originally adopted in 2016, CORSIA established that international airlines would need to pay for exceeding emissions above a baseline that averages carbon dioxide emissions from 2019 and 2020. The idea is to keep levels stable from 2020 onward. Since the covid-19 pandemic has affected air travel globally, many airline industry representatives don’t think 2020 should count toward the average.
In a statement released this week, the EU urged the UN aviation agency the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to only refer to 2019 emissions levels for CORSIA. “[T]he amended baseline period for the emission values used to calculate growth factors should refer to 2019 emission levels,” the EU argued. Politico noted that last year was a record one for air travel around the world.
The push for CORSIA revisions isn’t new. In April, airlines represented by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) asked for amendments. If costs from the environmental program are too high, IATA said that some of its member nations would need to pull out of CORSIA, the Guardian reported at the time.
Environmentalists aren’t buying that argument. On Tuesday, EDF International Counsel Annie Petsonk posted a blog on EDF’s site where she called the airlines’ request ironic.
“Airlines are publicly touting their commitments to reducing emissions,” Petsonk wrote. “But behind the closed doors of the ICAO Council, they’re pushing a rewrite that would give them a free pass to escape offsetting requirements for three to five years or more.”
She continued by saying that the ICAO Council can’t just change the program rules.
“The legal underpinnings of the CORSIA review structure were developed through tough negotiations at two successive assemblies for a reason: If the 36-member executive council of ICAO could ignore the processes established by the assemblies and simply alter decisions of assemblies, that might sow doubt among non-council members of ICAO as to the legitimacy of ICAO’s decisions and processes,” she wrote.