Climate action in the aviation sector under threat

Less climate protection with change of CORSIA

The aviation industry proposes to change the international agreement to address CO2 emissions from international aviation (CORSIA). Oeko-Institut’s assessment of the proposal shows that it could reduce the climate mitigation or offsetting obligations of the industry by 25 to 75 percent until 2035.

CORSIA aims to stabilize CO2 emissions from international aviation from 2021 onwards. If emissions increase above a reference level, airlines need to purchase carbon offsets credits from climate mitigation projects to compensate for the increase.

Worst case scenario not realistic

The problem: the reference level agreed in 2016 was set as the average emissions in the years 2019 and 2020. The aviation industry now proposes to use 2019 only for setting the reference level. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 emissions are at unprecedented low levels. The industry association IATA is afraid that the resulting lower reference level would lead to much higher offsetting obligations. This fear is unfounded: emissions from international aviation will be affected for many years to come. The effect of the lower baseline and lower CO2 emissions in the future largely cancel each other out; the resulting offsetting obligations will not change much. 

Urgent changes to CORSIA are unnecessary

In a new paper, Oeko-Institut has analyzed the proposal in more detail. “Overall, the proposal would delay airlines’ climate mitigation requirements by several years and lead to significantly fewer emission reductions”, says Dr Lambert Schneider, Research Coordinator for International Climate Policy at Oeko-Institut. 

Ongoing EU consultations 

The aviation industry’s proposal will be discussed by the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in June this year. The EU still needs to find a position on the matter, and consultations are ongoing. “We just do not have sufficient time to delay climate action in the aviation sector by years. We need to set now the right incentives for the innovation and investments needed to embark on the transition towards zero emissions”, says Jakob Graichen, Co-Author of the paper. “We recommend maintaining the current rules until a review scheduled for 2022 which should be used to revisit the overall ambition and impacts of the scheme.”

Paper “Should CORSIA be changed due to the COVID-19 crisis?” by Oeko-Institut