NGOs urge EU to stand firm on aircraft emissions, keeping ETS and not letting ineffective CORSIA replace it
NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact have called on the European Commission (EC) to reject industry demands to hastily sign up to the controversial ‘Corsia’ carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation. T&E is warning that Corsia threatens the only effective measure currently in place to address aviation emissions, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2016, ICAO’s general assembly agreed a Corsia to come into effect in 2021. Its aim is to stabilise net emissions from aviation at 2020 levels – a low level of ambition. It also relies on offsetting – a mechanism which is increasingly discredited. T&E said: “Corsia is essentially an attempt by industry to dismantle the only effective measure in place to address aviation emissions – the ETS – and replace it with a weak and uncertain Corsia. The motivation is clear: emissions trading is working, but as the rules for Corsia get close to finalisation they are being weakened to the point where Corsia will have next to no environmental benefit.” That’s why industry is lobbying the EC to accept the Corsia rules without reservation. Three NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact, T&E, AEF and Carbon Market Watch, have written to the EC, calling on it to keep aviation as part of the ETS, and object to Corsia’s draft rules, that prevent the EU being able to regulate its aviation emissions.
EU urged to stand firm on aircraft emissions
October 6, 2018 (Transport & Environment – T&E – press release
NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact have called on the European Commission to reject industry demands to hastily sign up to the controversial ‘Corsia’ carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation. T&E is warning that such a move is both against EU law, and threatens the only effective measure currently in place to address aviation emissions.
Since the first international treaty on reducing greenhouse gases was signed in 1997, countries have worked through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN agency, to address aviation emissions.
However, no state or bloc has been able to advance any measures through ICAO. In 2012, the EU included emissions from flights within Europe in its emissions trading system (ETS), and, after years of difficulty, the ETS is starting to deliver an increasingly effective carbon price which should soon make an important contribution to addressing the sector’s climate impact.
In 2016, ICAO’s general assembly agreed a Carbon Offsets and Reduction Scheme in International Aviation (Corsia) to come into effect in 2021. Its aim is to stabilise net emissions from aviation at 2020 levels – a level of ambition that puts it behind EU climate goals. It also relies on offsetting – a mechanism which is increasingly discredited and which otherwise would not form part of European climate policy after 2021.
A first version of the Corsia rules was finalised in June. States have until 1 December to object, or the rules become binding under international law. Once in operation, Corsia threatens to invalidate other, more effective measures such as the ETS. That’s why industry is lobbying the Commission to accept the Corsia rules without reservation.
Now a trio of NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact – T&E, Aviation Environment Federation and Carbon Market Watch – has written to the Commission, calling on it to protect aviation as part of the ETS.
Their letter says current legislation forbids Europe from responding to the Corsia rules until a formal review has been carried into whether Corsia will deliver any level of environmental effectiveness. They therefore call on the Commission to object to the draft rules, as failure to reserve Europe’s position by the 1 December deadline could limit Europe’s right to regulate.
T&E’s aviation manager Andrew Murphy said: ‘Corsia is essentially an attempt by industry to dismantle the only effective measure in place to address aviation emissions – emissions trading under the ETS – and replace it with a weak and uncertain Corsia. The motivation is clear: emissions trading is working, but as the rules for Corsia get close to finalisation they are being weakened to the point where Corsia will have next to no environmental benefit.
As aviation emissions soar, it’s vital the Commission stands up for Europe’s right to take effective action, and does not allow the ETS to be replaced by the increasingly worthless Corsia.’
The 2017 revision to the ETS directive (Regulation 2017/2392) requires the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to undertake a review of Corsia before determining whether or how to implement it in Europe.
Campaign group warns EU it will miss aviation emissions target
Report says new industry-backed standard Corsia will save airlines €3bn a year
By Josh Spero, Transport Correspondent (Financial Times)
OCTOBER 7, 2018
The EU will miss its 2030 aviation emissions target by almost 100m tonnes if it adopts a new industry-backed standard being rolled out next year, a transport campaigning group has claimed.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia) would allow airlines to offset emissions growth, rather than necessarily reduce it, according to a report prepared for Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based group for non-governmental organisations.
T&E said Corsia had “substantial and ongoing failings” and only offered “cheap and ineffective” remedies for emissions, which contribute towards climate change.
It also said Corsia would represent a “financial windfall for airlines”, saving them more than €3bn a year compared with expanding an existing scheme.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN agency that developed Corsia, said the scheme was one part of “ICAO’s basket of measures designed to reduce carbon emissions from international aviation” and that improvements in aircraft technology, operations and sustainable aviation fuels would “achieve the international aviation sector’s global goal of carbon neutral growth from 2020”.
The aviation industry supports Corsia. In December 2017, Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways owner IAG, called Corsia “an excellent first step”, while low-cost European carrier Ryanair has said it is a “historic breakthrough in global carbon emission regulation”.
Paul Steele, senior vice-president at the International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 airlines, said: “The agreement of Corsia by ICAO states was hugely significant as it offers the most effective and efficient means of offsetting the emissions that cannot be cut through technological and operational improvements in the short term.”
From 2019, Corsia will require airlines to monitor, report and verify CO2 emissions to establish a baseline, before a pilot phase from 2021 to 2023 for volunteer states. From 2027, most of ICAO’s 191 member states will have to participate.
The EU has an overarching target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 by 2030, which has been set to 111m tonnes for emissions from flights leaving the bloc.
But the report found that Corsia would not stop them rising to 211m tonnes based on current sector growth predictions. Airlines could offset the balance through investing in emissions-reducing projects such as forest-planting, solar energy or hydrodynamic power.
At the moment, the EU operates an emissions trading system (EU ETS) for flights between and within member states that has a declining cap for aviation emissions. Corsia would replace this for flights between member states.
Andrew Murphy of T&E said: “We could end up dismantling what is at present the only measure to regulate aviation emissions and replace it with something which is less credible, a lot cheaper and a lot less likely to regulate emissions.”
Rachel Welch-Phillips, an associate at law firm Bird & Bird, said that while Corsia had the advantage of being a global, not just European, scheme, EU ETS “sets a stricter cap on emissions”, making it more likely to deter new ones.
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said there were “substantial questions” about the effectiveness of the offsets Corsia envisages, which “do not have a good track record”. He said offsets lacked permanence (for example, a newly planted forest could be cut down) and integrity (a forest may be planted insufficiently or not at all).
T&E urged the EU to submit a demurral in its response to a consultation on Corsia’s rule book, rather than signing up immediately. This would allow the EU to “keep its options open as to whether or how it will implement Corsia”, it said.
UN climate science body’s (IPCC) report highlights that aviation must accelerate emissions reductions
The IPCC’s Special Report on trying to keep global warming to 1.5C highlights that we are not on target to keep global warming to below 2 degrees C much less 1.5C as countries agreed to in the Paris Agreement in 2015. Most notably, the report shows that progress in the transportation sector is lagging behind and needs to start its own transformation immediately This includes the global aviation sector. Some downplay the extent of aviation’s climate impact – some 5% of global warming when accounting for both CO2 and climate effects at altitude. The international portion of aviation’s emissions was “excluded” from the Paris Agreement and is being addressed entirely inadequately by the UN’s ICAO instead. But the IPCC report makes clear that cutting emissions from the fast growing aviation sector is essential. ICSA (the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation) says: “The IPCC makes clear that, without action on this major and growing source of emissions, the goal of limiting a temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C cannot be achieved. The report’s finding that efficiency improvements alone aren’t enough is a wake-up call to governments to put aviation on a flightpath to decarbonization to ensure the sector plays its part in delivering a zero-carbon future.”