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The extraordinary climate agreement on international aviation

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Policy Pulse - 14 November 2019 - George Anjaparidze

The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements published a Veritas Global policy brief providing rare insight into the inner workings of the airline industry. The brief, The Extraordinary Agreement on International Aviation, explains the key role played by the airline industry in the design of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

The scheme addresses the growth in total CO2 emissions from international aviation above 2020 levels. CORSIA will save the aviation industry tens of billions of US dollars each year by avoiding a costly patchwork of overlapping and distortive measures. The worst-case patchwork scenario estimated that climate-policy costs would be equivalent of about 10% of industry revenues in 2030. In comparison, carbon neutral growth from 2020 would cost the industry less than 1% of industry revenues in 2030.

For CORSIA to function effectively, there is an urgent need to secure a credible source of carbon offsets. ICAO is currently working towards an agreement on emission unit criteria. Offsets used by aviation need to be consistent with the broader climate-policy framework under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement and ensure no unintended double-counting of emission reduction efforts. In the medium term, it may be necessary to introduce adjustments to CORSIA.

Although challenges remain, CORSIA represents an extraordinary achievement. A key focus of industry and policy makers needs to be on ensuring that CORSIA is fully implemented with the broadest possible participation. This will enable international aviation to address its CO2 emissions while continuing to deliver a critical service for the modern economy.


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