What is CORSIA and how should you prepare?

Published 7th December 2017 by Joshua Holland

Each year on the 7th December we mark the ‘International Civil Aviation Day’ in order to recognise the important role that aviation and international air travel plays in the social and economic development of our world. Given the adoption of Agenda 2030 by the UN and member states, the importance of aviation in continuing to facilitate global connectivity and usher in a new era of sustainable development has never been more relevant.

Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash.jpg

Reaching this new era, however, won’t come without challenge. According to the most recent IPCC figures, civil aviation (both national and international) currently accounts for around 2% of global CO2 emissions from human activity. On top of that, international aviation’s fuel consumption is expected to increase between 2.8 and 3.9 times by 2040 compared to 2010 levels.

Following the ratification of the Paris Agreement, it has become even more clear that the aviation sector will need to balance its continual growth alongside its responsibility to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Enter the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

What is CORSIA?

In 2016 CORSIA was agreed to by 191 member states at the 39th ICAO Assembly. It is a global market-based measure (MBM) created with the aim of achieving the aviation industry’s aspirational goal of capping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at 2020 levels, delivering “carbon neutral growth from 2020”.

The view is that a GMG is needed because operational measures and technological improvements to increase efficiency will not be enough.

What does it mean for airlines?

As of August 2017, 72 member states representing ~88% of international aviation activity, intend to participate in the voluntary phase of CORSIA from its outset.

The offsetting requirements will begin based on the ‘sectoral’ growth rate, in which all air carriers purchase offsets for emissions that are in line with the average emissions growth rate for the entire sector since 2020. Starting in 2030, the offsetting requirements will then transition to an ‘individual’ approach, whereby unique air carriers offset some portion of their own individual growth since 2020.

Starting in 2022, ICAO plans to review the measure every 3 years to make adjustments as necessary. A final review will take place in 2032, when ICAO will decide whether to extend CORSIA beyond 2035.

The process will follow:

PhaseYearMember States Participating
Pilot Phase2021-2023Voluntary
Phase 12024-2026Voluntary
Phase 22027-2029All ICAO member states whose market share exceeds 0.5% or is within 90% of the aggregate from the largest to smallest. LLDCs, LDC & SIDS exempt*
2030-2032
2033-2035

* Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), unless they volunteer to participate in this phase.

What action is required?

Whilst experts are working to turn the ICAO Resolution into an implementable measure, it is expected that each operator will have to follow a set of guidelines in order to ensure compliance with the scheme:

  • Estimate their CO2 emissions on the basis of fuel consumption
  • Calculate and verify emissions
  • Declare emissions to ICAO
  • Use the growth factor (%) (determined by ICAO each year) to calculate the volume of CO2 emissions to be offset
  • Buy carbon credits equivalent to the volume of annual emissions to be offset. Each carbon credit equals 1 tonne CO2 equivalent reduced.

The experts fine tuning these guidelines are working across four units; Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV), Emissions Unit Criteria (EUC), Sustainable Alternative [Aviation] Fuels, and Registries. Each of these units are tasked with finalising the technical and commercial elements of CORSIA.

The implementable measure will be the CORSIA Package that is due to be adopted in June 2018 – in time for airline operators to begin monitoring their emissions from 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2020.

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