Two years after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — a specialised agency of the United Nations — adopted the Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) at its general assembly, India’s watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued draft guidelines for aeroplane operators flying on international routes. Under the scheme, all operators engaged in international operations have to capture their fuel consumptions and carbon emissions data annually, starting from January 1, 2019. Further, beginning 2021, the operators will have to meet offsetting requirements by purchasing and cancelling “emission units”.
As per the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global trade body of airlines, the air transport industry contributes 2 per cent of global carbon emissions. The CORSIA is part of an effort from the ICAO to halve carbon emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels. CORSIA aims to address any annual increase in total carbon dioxide emissions from international civil aviation above the baseline value — based on the average of 2019 and 2020 levels — in order to avoid the impact of any unusual fluctuations in air traffic in 2020 levels. CORSIA will be implemented in three phases, with the pilot phase from 2021 to 2023, first phase to be operational from 2024 to 2026, and second phase from 2027 to 2035. Even as the pilot and first phases are voluntary for ICAO’s members states to implement, the second phase is mandatory for all countries, including India.
In terms of the scheme’s design elements, it is divided into two parts — monitoring, reporting & verification, and offsetting. Under monitoring, carriers will have to record fuel use on each international flight and calculate carbon dioxide emissions according to the prescribed formula. After this, they will have to report the emission information to the DGCA and ICAO, which will be verified to ensure completeness and to avoid misstatements. The DGCA has sought comments from stakeholders on the proposed guidelines latest by October 25.
Under offsetting requirements, ICAO has said that the price of the emission units in the carbon market will be determined on the basis of availability of units and the level of offsetting requirements. For CORSIA, an aeroplane operator is required to meet its offsetting requirements by cancelling emissions units in a quantity equal to its total final offsetting requirements for a given compliance period. The CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units are to be determined by the ICAO Council. Further, a number of exceptions have been laid down too. These include humanitarian, medical and fire-fighting flights. Other than these, all civilian international operations undertaken by aeroplane operators are covered by CORSIA. Globally, the industry has backed the offsetting requirements over a carbon tax given that a levy would merely require companies to pay for their emissions, without any guarantee that the payment will lead to any emission reductions.
However, CORSIA is only a part of aviation industry’s four-pillar strategy to address the sector’s impact on climate and to meet the carbon targets. Other measures include adoption of new technology, including deployment of sustainable alternative fuels, more efficient aircraft operations, and infrastructure improvements including modernised air traffic management systems.
According to IATA, civil aviation, as a whole, emitted around 859 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, and estimates that between 2021 and 2035, aviation will have to offset 2.6 billion tonnes of the greenhouse gas under CORSIA. “Airlines already have a strong incentive to emit less: an airline reduces its fuel costs by approximately $225 for each tonne of CO2 it is able to avoid,” IATA has noted.