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  September 20th, 2016 | Written by

Historic Aviation Carbon Agreement Moves a Step Closer

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  • Airline industry is pursuing a goal of carbon-neutral growth.
  • UN body was mandated to present a proposal to manage aviation’s carbon footprint.
  • IATA CEO: “I am optimistic that we are on the brink of a historic agreement.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expressed optimism for an agreement on a Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) when governments meet for the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this month.

The draft negotiating text for CORSIA, published in early September, broadly aligns with the aviation industry’s call for a mandatory global carbon offset scheme as a tool to help manage the industry’s emissions. Instead of being mandatory from the start, however, the draft text defines a voluntary “pilot and implementation” period, between 2021 and 2026, after which participation would be mandatory for all eligible states, beginning in 2027.

ICAO is the United Nations body charged with managing aviation’s climate change impact. ICAO was mandated by its 191 contracting states in 2013 to present a proposal for a global market-based measure to manage aviation’s carbon footprint. That proposal is the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

“I am optimistic that we are on the brink of a historic agreement—a first for an industry sector at the global level,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The aviation industry would have preferred a more ambitious timeline than is currently outlined in the draft text. However, what is most important is that the substance of the negotiating text will allow for meaningful management of aviation’s carbon footprint.”

IATA encourages governments to commit to their voluntary participation as soon as possible. “Last year’s much lauded Paris climate change agreement was a combination of voluntary measures to which the vast majority of countries have already committed themselves,” said de Juniac. “We expect no less of an outcome. The industry is ready. There is really no reason for governments not to volunteer.” The United States, China, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, the Marshall Islands, and 44 European countries have indicated their willingness to participate, according to de Juniac.

“Airlines are committed to environmental responsibility. But achieving it requires a partnership with governments,” he added. “That is clear in the development of a global market-based measure such as CORSIA. And it is the same for day-to-day operations. Airlines are investing heavily in new technology, the development of sustainable alternative fuels and operational efficiency. This is particularly the case with investments to modernize air navigation infrastructure which will bring cost-efficiency benefits along with improved environmental performance. Similarly, government incentives to commercialize sustainable alternative fuels are critical to unlocking their environmental benefits with increased production capacity and lower costs.”