Breakthrough for global emission trading in aviation

© Fotolia/chalabala

An historic agreement was reached in the framework of this year’s General Assembly of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The participating Member States struck a deal on a global climate protection instrument for the air transport sector.

There is a proverb which says that good things take time. And it took some time before ICAO's Member States managed to reach agreement on a common climate protection agreement. The negotiations conducted over recent years on a global climate protection instrument for air transport were provisionally concluded during the 39th General Assembly in Montreal. In October 2016, the delegates voted for adoption of Resolution A39-3 and thus for the introduction of a market-based system to achieve international climate protection objectives in the area of civil aviation.

Implementation in three phases

The so-called "Carbon Offsetting Reduction Scheme for International Aviation" (CORSIA) will have to demonstrate that it is workable and constructive over the years ahead. Nevertheless, the reach of this first resolution on an international climate protection agreement in the area of civil aviation should not be underestimated. Given the fact that, as the situation currently stands, 66 States which together account for 86.5 percent of worldwide flight activity have declared their willingness to join the system from the outset, a considerable effect on the sector's climate protection objective of carbon-neutral growth is likely to be felt as soon as CORSIA starts in 2021. The pilot phase lasting until 2023 will then be followed by a similarly voluntary phase through 2026. Participation is very largely obligatory in phase 2 from 2027 to 2035. Involvement in this phase takes place on the understanding that a total of 90 percent of growth-related CO2 emissions will be offset.

Offsetting system as climate protection instrument

CORSIA is an offsetting measure. It is characteristic for such a system that emissions caused by one industrial sector are offset outside this industrial sector. Projects are financed via tradable certificates which international airlines will have to acquire. BDI has in the past always represented the interests of the German aviation industry without losing sight of the importance for climate protection of carbon-neutral growth in the air transport sector. However, the emission trading system currently practised in the EU causes considerable competition disadvantages to the detriment of European airlines. In order henceforth to ensure competition neutrality vis-à-vis foreign competitors, the global approach that has now been adopted by ICAO is certainly preferable to unilateral European action. It is also important to ensure that any additional European solution is scrapped with the introduction of CORSIA.