The air transport industry’s global emissions scheme progressed one step further this week when a set of standards was agreed at an ICAO Council meeting in Montreal.

The standards were needed urgently so that airlines have the technical rules necessary to provide governments with mandatory CO2 emissions data on international routes from Jan. 1, 2019. This data will help establish a baseline for emissions for the implementation of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). From 2021, airlines will need to start offsetting the growth in emissions from the international routes between states that have volunteered to participate in CORSIA.

There has been growing concern this year about the slow progress towards getting the CORSIA standards in place. But on June 27, it was announced that the ICAO Council had adopted a comprehensive set of CORSIA standards and recommended practices, removing a major hurdle to meeting the January deadline.

Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) executive director Michael Gill welcomed the move, saying, “This now allows governments and industry to make final preparations for implementation before the CO2 emissions monitoring and reporting obligations commence in January 2019. The ICAO Council is to be commended for their fast progress on this important technical work.”

But Gill noted more work needs to be done and urged ICAO to turn quickly to the additional decisions required to operationalize CORSIA’s carbon offsetting provisions, which are set to take effect in 2021: “Whilst 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. 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. We would also like to see the Council agree to the full set of sustainability criteria for new aviation fuels.

“The most urgent focus is the need for capacity building to ensure governments are ready to provide their oversight role as aircraft operators prepare to comply with CORSIA. As the industry moves ahead with our preparations, governments around the world will also need to put in place the necessary reporting and oversight processes. We call on the ICAO Secretariat to redouble its ongoing capacity building efforts for their member States and encourage fast progress in this area.”

Karen Walker