Airlines lobby to rewrite carbon deal in light of coronavirus

Airlines are lobbying to rewrite the rules of a global agreement designed to tackle aviation emissions, with the coronavirus outbreak expected to make its targets tougher to meet.

Campaigners accused airlines of attempting to “dodge their obligations”, but the industry said it was “a matter of survival”, with most international travel currently frozen in the Covid-19 crisis.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has called on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to amend the carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation (Corsia), or risk airlines pulling out.

Under the system, airlines have to pay to offset any growth in carbon emissions above a baseline set by the average emissions of 2019 and 2020. The grounding of aircraft during the pandemic means the baseline will be far lower than envisaged, and the carbon targets much more challenging, if Corsia goes ahead without changes.

Iata has told ICAO that the baseline “must be adjusted to ensure the sustainable development of international aviation and avoid an inappropriate economic burden on the sector”. It said some nations could pull out of the agreement if the costs were too high.

Before the Covid-19 crisis, estimates showed that airlines were likely to have to spend between £4bn and £18bn a year globally on carbon credits by 2035 to satisfy the Corsia rules. A report by the Green Alliance, before the coronavirus lockdown, found that this was not enough to meet the goals set out in the Paris agreement.