Beyond ICAO’s CORSIA: It will NOT deliver the necessary aviation CO2 cuts, and more ambition is needed for it to be effective

In a useful paper, Chris Lyle (with a long, impressive academic and industry pedigree) writes of how the ICAO’S CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) – that rather implausibly aims for “carbon-neutral growth” from 2020 onward – cannot produce a reduction in global aviation CO2 emissions. He instead suggests ways in which CORSIA needs to be modified, in order to more more ambitious – and achieve carbon reduction cuts from the sector. He suggests that the legal and governance framework and the implementation process of CORSIA should require the aviation CO2 emissions of each country to be part of their obligations under the Paris Agreement, and there should be a more a direct role for the UNFCCC in determining eligibility of emission units and alternative fuels. Much more ambition is needed, and even if the aviation industry manages to find “alternative” fuels that are genuinely environmentally sustainable (doubtful at any scale ….) they will not provide the carbon emission cuts required. Aviation should not be one of the only industries allowed to continue to increase its CO2 emissions, year after year. [Unfortunately, the UK is trying to claim it need not be concerned about aviation CO2, as it is all being adequately dealt with by the CORSIA scheme. It is not.]


Chris Lyle’s paper calls for a more ambitious strategy

Beyond ICAO’s CORSIA: Towards a More Climatically Effective Strategy for Mitigation of Civil Aviation Emissions

By Chris Lyle (Air Transport Economics

Abstract  (of 20 page paper)

Pursuant to a referral by the UNFCCC through the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has developed a ‘basket’ of emission-mitigation measures for international aviation. Technical and operational measures proved inadequate to counter traffic growth and finally, in October 2016, ICAO adopted a framework for a market-based measure. The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is the primary emission-mitigation tool for international aviation. It aims at ‘carbon-neutral growth’ (CNG) from 2020 onward. Yet, even with an increased use of alternative fuels and comprehensive implementation of CORSIA, ICAO’s basket of measures will not produce a reduction in global aviation emissions. This article describes the legal and governance framework and the implementation process of CORSIA, assesses the scheme’s potential contribution to climate-change mitigation, and proposes a derivative but more ambitious strategy. This would include incorporation of international aviation emissions in the NDCs of Parties to the Paris Agreement and a more direct role for the UNFCCC in determining eligibility of emission units and alternative fuels, with ICAO remaining accountable for ‘Monitoring, Reporting and Verification’.


One paragraph copied below: 

“One elemental weakness in the treatment of international aviation emissions through ICAO is that there is no directly identifiable national commitment, only a global ‘sector-determined’ contribution; and so, the contribution of international aviation emissions does not have a high profile nationally. Not only is potential action diluted, international aviation is treated in a silo and not in the context of differing national circumstances and the relative contribution of aviation to the economy—notably for cases where tourism is critical. Moreover, while membership of the UNFCCC and ICAO is essentially the same, the UNFCCC’s mandate is to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere while general motivation of ICAO is to protect and promote international aviation.”


See the whole paper at