The clock is ticking to the introduction of Carbon Offset Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

From January 1, 2019, all airlines operating international flights will have to monitor and report fuel consumption and emissions regardless of whether their government has signed up to the voluntary phases of CORSIA.

Those airlines based in countries that have volunteered to comply fully with CORSIA will need to do so from January 2021 and global mandatory compliance begins six years later.

1 January 2019 - All airlines operating international flights will have to monitor and report fuel consumption and emissions from this date

Certain requirements

The release of ICAO standards and recommended practices (SARPs) for the monitoring and reporting stage is a vital step forward, bringing certainty to airline work in this area. The SARPs detail the technical requirements and so ease implementation efforts. The resulting submissions will form part of a baseline of CO2 emissions for CORSIA.

“Significant effort was made at the global-level to ensure that these CORSIA SARPs could be adopted within such a limited timeframe, and that States and airline operators would be prepared to use them,” says ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu. “ICAO will continue to actively assist our Member States in these and other CORSIA preparations, both directly and through capacity-building partnerships we’ll help them to establish.”

Michael Gill, Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) and IATA’s Director Aviation Environment, agrees it means airlines can now begin final preparations. “The ICAO Council is to be commended for their fast progress on this important technical work,” he notes.

IATA has been working with ATAG to play its part in furthering CORSIA implementation with a series of comprehensive workshops in various parts of the world. These sessions use a mix of learning tools to help airlines prepare for carbon offsetting.

“We’ve had a great response from the industry participants and governments which have taken part in the training so far,” says Gill. “It is very hands-on real-world education on what needs to be done to comply with CORSIA from January 1 next year. By the end of 2018, over 20 of these workshops will have taken place. We encourage all airlines to ensure their staff are up to speed on this. Make sure you have a focal point and that they are in touch with IATA.”

IATA, meanwhile, is finalizing FRED+, an easy-to-use, intuitive platform developed to support and facilitate CO2 emissions reporting for aircraft operators and states. FRED+ is based on the IATA Fuel Reporting and Emissions Database (FRED), which has been in use since 2012.

FRED is used to track another of the industry’s environmental goals—an average annual improvement of at least 1.5% in fuel efficiency—and has 250 active users. FRED+ help desk sessions began in late June and teach participants about the key benefits of FRED+ and enable them to browse through a mock-up of the system, with the possibility to ask questions related to the different functionalities.

250 FRED is used to track an environmental goal of the industry—an average annual improvement of at least 1.5% in fuel efficiency—and has 250 users

CORSIA checklist - What to do in the second half of 2018:

Submit Emissions Monitoring Plan. One of the first steps under CORSIA will be the requirement for each operator to develop an emissions monitoring plan. The emissions monitoring plan will detail the methods that will be used to monitor fuel use 
and calculate emissions and data management, flow and control.

Select a verification agency. Prior to submitting their annual emissions reports to administering authorities, aircraft operators will need to have their data checked by an external verifier. Airlines may wish to identify a suitable agency in advance.

Start emissions monitoring on January 1, 2019. As the baseline for the CORSIA will be set using the average emissions between 2019 and 2020, all aircraft operators will need to start monitoring their CO2 emissions in 2019.

A number of participants have already expressed interest in being FRED+ test users, with the system scheduled to go live on January 1, 2019. FRED+ fosters strong synergies between stakeholders through compliant and uniform processes to:

  • Reduce administrative burden and cost
  • Safeguard commercially sensitive data Ensure equal treatment of all airlines
  • Drive airline environmental performance

Alternative fuels… 
The ICAO Council has agreed for ‘lower carbon conventional fuels’ to be recognized through CORSIA if those fuels are able to achieve a 10% or greater reduction in lifecycle CO2 emissions.

Any use of these fuels that meet ICAO-agreed sustainability criteria will reduce the offsetting requirements for CORSIA by an amount corresponding to their lifecycle CO2 emissions reduction.

“The industry remains committed to the development of sustainable aviation fuel,” says Michael Gill, ATAG Executive Director. “It 
is conceivable that conventional fuels could be delivered with reduced CO2 lifecycle emissions, but we of the view that our long-term needs for sustainable fuels will have to be met through non-fossil sources and these should be the focus of research, development and funding.”

The commercialization of sustainable fuels must also be supported by broader policy frameworks. IATA has called on Europe to establish such an appropriate policy framework in the revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive currently under discussion in Brussels.

Additional decisions

Gill points out that ICAO’s work on CORSIA preparations is only halfway done, however. He says ICAO must quickly turn to the additional decisions required to operationalize CORSIA’s carbon offsetting provisions, which are set to take effect in 2021.

“Though we are very happy with the significant progress that has been made at ICAO so far, there are still a number of decisions and steps that must be taken,” he says. “The establishment of the Technical Advisory Board to determine the types of offsets that can be used to comply with CORSIA must be given high priority.”

The most urgent focus, though, is the need for ICAO to ensure governments are ready to provide their oversight role. IATA has called on the ICAO Secretariat to redouble its ongoing capacity building efforts for their member States and encourage fast progress in this area.

“The commitment to sustainability must be shared by governments,” says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The 72 governments already signed on to CORSIA cover 75% of aviation growth post-2020. We want more to join—ideally 100% coverage. It’s not just about signing-up. Under the leadership of ICAO, governments agreed to CORSIA as a universal measure to address aviation’s carbon footprint. They must put all their efforts into honoring that commitment with a successful implementation.”

Given this, the looming onset of national and regional offsetting schemes that undermine the global commitment to CORSIA is an unnecessary complication. Since the unanimous 2016 ICAO agreement on CORSIA, Sweden, the Netherlands and Colombia are among the countries that have proposed national measures to address aviation’s CO2 impact.

And there is continuing uncertainty over the application of the EU ETS to international flights in the post-2020 CORSIA environment. “CORSIA is the agreed global economic measure,” says de Juniac. “So while we are trying to implement CORSIA, it is disappointing to see a number of European states looking to implement new environment taxes on top of the EU ETS.”

Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, believes that if you can’t demonstrate sustainability then the industry’s future is limited. “The measures we are taking provide us with a path to a sustainable future from an environmental point of view,” he points out. “If we fail on that path then the scale of activity for aviation will have to reduce. We have to demonstrate both financial and environmental sustainability or the industry will decline.”