Offsetting for the Aviation: Aviation Industry May Adopt a Mandatory Global Carbon Offset Scheme




The aviation sector is a tremendous source of emissions. It represents between 2% to 3% of the total global carbon emissions, and is expected to reach 4% to 15% by 2050, given its growth rate. On top of that, the warming effect of emissions released at high altitudes may be even more powerful. Nevertheless, aviation is not covered by the Paris Climate Agreement, and therefore the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is in charge of developing its own mitigation measures.

ICAO has set the goal of achieving carbon neutral growth after 2020. The idea is to cap net emission at 2020 levels and adopt a global market-based measure (MBM) – which may involve a mandatory global offsetting scheme – to compensate excess emissions above the 2020 baseline.

ICAO is working on a number of measures to reduce aviation emissions, such as air traffic management modernization, use of fuel-efficient aircraft technologies, and the development of sustainable alternative fuels. Still, a MBM scheme would play a major role in assisting international aviation to meet its target, as the potential demand for carbon offsets aggregated over the period from 2021 to 2035 would account for 3.3 Gt.

A number of aspects shall be discussed and agreed by ICAO’s Assembly in order to finalize the global market-based measure by October 2016. Being one key aspect the eligibility criteria for emission units (EUC), which have aroused extensive discussions and debates all over the globe.

Sustainable Carbon is for ICAO restricting eligible emission units to credits with highest standards with respect to environmental integrity and strong contributions to sustainable development. We particularly support the inclusion of REDD+ with strong safeguards on the Aviation MBM.

Restricting offsets to projects certified under high profiled standards such as the Verified Carbon Standard and the Gold Standard will also reinforce the reliability of such MBM.

By October 2016 we will all learn if the commitment of the Airline Sector will contribute to sustainable development objectives as well as climate change mitigation. Ideally, the Airlines MBM should additionally favor initiatives that contribute with diverse and robust co-benefits.

Many airline companies have already invested on voluntary offset programs that have managed to address climate change whilst also alleviating deforestation, promoting a more sustainable supply chain and improving livelihoods of local communities, and the Aviation MBM has now the opportunity to set toward the same path.