Airlines seek CORSIA changes in light of virus impact
Airlines are urging governments to alter the UN’s international CORSIA aviation offsetting mechanism to account for the drastic cut in flights due to the coronavirus, changes that would likely greatly reduce offset demand.
Carriers’ association IATA wants UN body ICAO and its member states to amend the average 2019-20 baseline calculation from which carriers must offset their emissions growth to 2019 only, and is seeking a five-month delay to Oct. 2020 for a deadline to submit 2019 emission data, it said in a circular dated Mar. 30.
The sharp decline in international air travel this year caused by the coronavirus will skew the 2019-20 baseline calculation and potentially make it harder for airlines to meet their carbon neutral growth targets once the industry recovers.
“Allowing the use of 2019 emissions as an alternative would preserve the environmental benefits that were forecast to be achieved through CORSIA as the adjusted baseline would remain more stringent than what the baseline would have been without the COVID-19 crisis,” according to the note seen by Carbon Pulse.
ICAO’s executive council last month endorsed vintage restrictions and six programmes to provide offsets to CORSIA, which the body had expected to generate demand of roughly 103 mln credits over the 2021-23 pilot phase.
Some 82 states representing 76.6% of global aviation activity have now committed to participate in the initial voluntary phase, according to ICAO, with countries including major emitters China, India, Russia, or Brazil still holding back from signing up.
Qian Guoqiang with consultants Sino Carbon told a webinar this week that while no decision has yet been made on whether China will participate in the voluntary phase, officials are saying privately that “the chances are very slim”.
“IATA is highly concerned that if the cost impacts of CORSIA are higher than forecast, many states may be less inclined to volunteer for the pilot and first phase and, indeed, current volunteers may reconsider their earlier decisions in order to safeguard the interest of their national air transport system and its connectivity,” the note said.
“An adjustment to the baseline is also necessary to limit the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on aeroplane operators,” IATA added, pointing out that states have until the end of June to notify ICAO whether they will participate in the pilot phase.
IATA’s call to change the baselines comes despite a flexibility mechanism built into CORSIA rules regarding the baseline calculations, which green group EDF has said could substantially reduce airlines’ offset obligations.
IATA officials were not immediately able to respond to questions from Carbon Pulse about the notice.
The IATA note also urged ICAO to delay to Oct. 31 a May 31 deadline for airlines to submit their 2019 emission data, because the virus disruptions had hampered efforts to collect the information.
“The travel restrictions and confinement measures in many countries, as well as the economic downturn, have made it impossible for verification bodies to conduct verification activities,” IATA said.
But one major verifier contested this and said an across-the-board delay would be unnecessary.
“Verifiers are able to conduct their work as normal, there is no issue for us with that,” said Julien Dufour, CEO of Verifavia, which audits the emissions of around half of the world’s airlines subject to CORSIA.
“Some airlines, but certainly not all, may be having difficulties in gathering the data and so it may be understandable for ICAO to grant some flexibility to them on the deadlines on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
“But to extend the deadline for all airlines is unnecessary, it would send the wrong signal when many are able to complete the work.”
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