ICAO working on rules to at least ensure its CORSIA carbon credits for aviation are not double-counted

Rules to avoid double-counting of CO2 emissions cuts in offsets to be used by the aviation sector through the (weak, ineffective) ICAO CORSIA scheme, are considered to be a step forward by some campaigners. But proper assurances are needed to meet aviation’s climate pledges, so the claims of (sic) “carbon neutral growth” mean something. ICAO negotiators have agreed rules to prevent double-counting of carbon credits used to offset airline emissions.  As air traffic growth outpaces efficiency improvements, airlines will be expected to pay for emissions reductions in other sectors to offset the climate impact. In one of its secretive meetings, ICAO has adopted broad criteria to ensure those carbon offsets are not also counted towards national targets – and they actually represent extra CO2 emissions savings. Campaigners are also calling for an age limit on eligible carbon offsetting projects and transparency around the way the rules are put into practice.  There is a huge pool of dormant projects under the UN’s CDM that could, in theory, meet demand from airlines for carbon offsets. But most of those would continue cutting emissions, even without being used by aviation. So they are not additional. 



UN aviation body agrees to close carbon emissions loophole


Rules to avoid double-counting of emissions cuts are a step forward, say campaigners, but more assurances are needed to meet the sector’s climate promises

Negotiators have agreed rules to prevent double-counting of carbon credits used to offset airline emissions, at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) Council in Montreal, Canada.

The sector has committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020. As air traffic growth outpaces efficiency improvements, airlines will be expected to pay for emissions reductions in other sectors to offset the climate impact.

In a closed-room meeting, Icao adopted broad criteria to ensure those carbon offsets are not also counted towards national targets and represent extra emissions savings. That was reported by NGO observers and confirmed on Twitter by French negotiator Philippe Bertoux. The press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Climate campaigners welcomed the decision, but said more was needed to meet the industry’s promises. They are also calling for an age limit on eligible carbon offsetting projects and transparency around the way the rules are put into practice.

“This decision is a step forward,” said Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer at Carbon Market Watch, “but without setting an ambitious restriction on the age of eligible credits for the scheme, it could mean a giant setback for climate action. The aviation industry needs to face the reality that only new carbon reductions can deliver its goal of carbon neutral growth.”

There is a huge pool of dormant projects under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism that could, in theory, meet demand from airlines for carbon offsets. Analysts at New Climate Institute estimate82% of the available supply would continue cutting emissions with or without the extra revenue.

Researchers from the same think-tank urged Icao to ban projects started before 2016 from taking part in the aviation carbon market, in a commentary for Nature Climate Change last month.

Another critical issue is the make-up of a technical advisory body, which will be responsible for interpreting and applying the rules.

Annie Petsonk, aviation expert at Environmental Defense Fund, warned that it risked being shrouded in secrecy and vulnerable to industry lobbying. “We don’t want Icao to become the Fifa of carbon markets,” she told Climate Home News, referring to the football governing body’s record of corruption.

The Icao Council meeting runs until 15 March. It is not clear whether negotiators will settle outstanding questions around the carbon market’s operation at this session.

While airlines are eager to learn the details for their planning, Petsonk noted they will not need to start buying offsets until 2023. “It is more important to get it right than to rush it,” she said.

The industry’s Air Transport Action Group endorsed the newly agreed rules. “It is important for the industry that strong sustainability standards are applied for the types of eligible offsets,” said director Michael Gill in a statement.

Meanwhile, some argue the sector should be paying more for its climate pollution. At a meeting of EU environment ministers on Tuesday, Belgium’s Jean-Luc Crucke called for the bloc to impose taxes on air travel.



The advice in the UK from the Committee on Climate Change says these sorts of international carbon credits should not be used:

“Our present planning assumption, which underpins the fifth carbon budget and the current 2050 target, is that UK aviation emissions in 2050 should be around their 2005 level (i.e. 37.5 MtCO2e). Your acceptance of this planning assumption in the consultation is a very welcome step. The final white paper should further clarify that this will be met on the basis of actual emissions, rather than by relying on international offset credits.”
see full letter at


See also:

Study confirms that relying on outdated CDM carbon credits to compensate aviation emissions will do nothing for climate action

The UN’s new, very weak, scheme to attempt to do something about global aviation CO2 emissions is starting soon. It is the “Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation” (CORSIA). Countries have been trying to locate cheap, plentiful carbon credits that airlines can use. The process is secretive. One type of carbon credit being considered comes from the CDM, (Clean Development Mechanism) a carbon market established under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to allow rich countries to meet their climate targets at a cheaper cost. This climate tool has generated a lot of controversy around its failure to reduce emissions, as well as negative impacts it has had on local communities and the environment. The problem is that there is a huge supply of “junk” CDM credits, far larger than the amount aviation would need. These junk credits are often from projects to cut CO2 emissions which would happen anyway. If these junk credits are the ones the aviation sector uses, the effect would be an increase in global CO2.  There is also the problem that while all credits are far too cheap to be effective, the junk ones are even cheaper – so not costing airlines enough to in any way be an incentive to limit their CO2 emissions.

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See earlier:

Airlines eye massive carbon handout

28/06/2018 (Climate Change News)

Brazil and China behind push to allow billions of tonnes of old carbon credits to be used to offset future growth in pollutionAirlines have committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 (Photo: Commons)

By Megan Darby

Airlines are cruising for weak climate action after their governing body on Wednesday deferred key decisions to implement its targets, campaigners warn.

The aviation sector has committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020, agreeing to “offset” extra emissions by paying for emissions cuts in other sectors.

But negotiators at the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) may allow airlines to use a glut of old offsets to meet their quotas. Thousands of dormant projects are ready to flood the market with cheap credits, according to European analysts, without driving any new emissions reductions.

After clashes between emerging economies and European countries at an Icao council meeting in Montreal, discussions on offset eligibility will resume in September.

Brazil and China are at the centre of a push for all carbon credits generated under UN Climate Change mechanisms to be eligible for the aviation carbon offset scheme, known as Corsia. Their positions were set out in an Icao document dated 20 April and seen by Climate Home News.

Filip Cornelis, director of aviation at the EU commission, in a letter dated 1 March, called for a “vintage restriction”, ruling out projects started before the end of 2016.

“Corsia has only an environmental added value compared to a scenario without Corsia if it leads to the generation of additional emission reductions,” the letter said.

The main potential source of offsets is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the UN developed in response to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It allowed rich countries to meet some of their climate obligations by funding emissions cuts in the developing world.

However, later analysis found the vast majority of projects funded by the CDM would likely have happened with or without that support. For example, a hydropower dam would pay for itself through electricity sales, regardless of carbon market revenues.

A 2016 report by Öko-Institut for the European Commission estimated 85% of studied CDM projects and 73% of potential supply 2013-20 had a “low likelihood” of driving emissions cuts.

Independently, the New Climate Institute (NCI) last year judged 82% of real or potential carbon credits generated over that period were from projects not reliant on CDM revenue to continue their operations.

In the absence of eligibility limits, operating or dormant CDM projects could supply up to 3.8 billion credits for less than €1 a tonne of CO2, a follow-up NCI study for the German government found.

That covers the predicted 3 billion tonnes of aviation emissions growth up to 2035, at minimal cost to the industry.

“We are advocating that Corsia either decides to only allow new projects in response to this demand or targets projects which we term ‘more vulnerable’, which actually do depend on [carbon market] revenue at the moment,” explained NCI economist and report author Harry Fearnehough.

There is uncertainty over how much of that potential supply glut will materialise, he said. It includes projects that registered for the CDM but never issued carbon credits – and some may not have gone ahead.

Icao has drawn up draft eligibility principles that form a “good basis to avoid past mistakes,” according to Kelsey Perlman of Carbon Market Watch.

In theory, they would rule out the CDM because it does not have a safeguarding mechanism, but some countries want to make it an exception. China opposes a centralised process for determining eligibility while Brazil maintains all CDM projects should be automatically approved.

Much will depend on a technical advisory body that is due to make recommendations before the next meeting.

With so much up in the air, Perlman said an age limit on credits was a good way to give the system some environmental integrity.

“If airlines were allowed to buy offsets from climate projects undertaken years ago, no new carbon reductions would be achieved to compensate aviation’s growing pollution,” she said. “This underlines the need for a date limiting eligible offsets under Corsia, to prevent the threat of worthless credits from flooding the market.”

World Cup: Fifa accused of greenwashing in carbon offset scheme

Dirk Forrister, director of the International Emissions Trading Association, defended the CDM. Projects that looked like a safe bet with hindsight were not necessarily such an easy choice at the time, he told Climate Home News: “There was still a cash crunch.”

People who had developed projects for the CDM “in good faith” should get the first shot at the aviation market, Forrister said. “I am not saying every one of the projects that got registered [under the CDM] should automatically qualify [for Corsia], but I think it should be given a chance to show it comports with the new rules.”

Haldane Dodd, spokesperson for the industry’s Air Transport Action Group, deferred to the experts on precisely which offsets should be eligible.

In general, the group supports using CDM credits. “After all, these are ready to go now and everyone agrees that early action is vital if we are to get on top of the climate challenge,” he said.

Aviation accounts for more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The industry has struggled to find low carbon ways to get planes in the air, with incremental improvements in energy efficiency outweighed by rapid demand growth.

Under the Icao climate deal, the sector is to offset the increase in emissions starting in 2021. But green groups warn this commitment lags the ambition of the Paris Agreement to hold global warming below 2C – and could be undermined by weak participation and offsetting rules.

“Corsia looks more and more like an awful deal for the climate,” said Andrew Murphy, aviation campaigner at Brussels-based Transport & Environment, of the latest talks.