Apr 7, 2020 (updated: Apr 7, 2020)
Airlines are putting pressure on the UN to make it easier for them to curb emissions in the 2020s, as the industry reels from the collapse of air travel because of the coronavirus. EURACTIV’s partner Climate Home News reports.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents the world’s airlines, said it wanted to change the baselines from which traffic growth will be judged in coming years to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
It said it wanted to “avoid an inappropriate economic burden on the sector” by dropping a planned baseline of average emissions in 2019-2020 that is likely to be much lower than 2019 since many flights are now grounded.
As part of efforts to curb the aviation sector’s growing emissions, countries that are members to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – the UN body responsible for aviation – have agreed an “aspirational goal” to make all growth in international flights carbon neutral after 2020, compared to both 2019 and 2020.
Under the existing plan, countries have agreed to use a market-based offset mechanism known as CORSIA. But the public health crisis and collapse of air travel means emissions from aviation are anticipated to fall this year.
Global airlines are scrambling to find parking spots as the coronavirus outbreak slashes demand for air travel. More than 10,000 aircraft have been mothballed since the start of the crisis, according to data published on Monday (30 March).
A lower 2019-2020 baseline than initially expected would toughen airlines’ goals for curbing emissions growth and force companies to buy a lot more offsets to meet the sector’s climate target when traffic rebounds.
In a position paper, IATA said use of the two-year average could result in “significantly higher offsetting requirements and costs for operators further down the line”.
IATA called on the ICAO’s council, the organisation’s governing body, to adjust CORSIA’s baseline to 2019.
The trade group said using only 2019 would “preserve the environmental benefits” of CORSIA as it “would remain more stringent” than the anticipated baseline, had the coronavirus crisis not happened and airlines’ emissions continued to grow in 2020.
It urged the council to make a decision on the issue before the end of June. CORSIA was agreed in 2016 and a review of the scheme was not expected before 2022.
The trade group’s call for ICAO to review CORSIA’s implementation comes after China – which has one of the world’s fastest growing air passenger markets – also called for the baseline to be adjusted during a meeting of ICAO’s council last month.
The move also comes as the aviation industry is urging governments to provide it with economic relief as the pandemic stalled global travel. The US approved a near $60 billion bailout package for the industry last month.
However, adjusting the baseline would require political approval by other ICAO members.
Bas Eickhout, a Green MEP and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee, told Climate Home News CORSIA was already “extremely weak” and “won’t bring the aviation sector anywhere near to what is needed to tackle climate change”.
He added that while a lower baseline will force airlines to buy more credits, the credits were “very cheap” at a “couple of euros per tonne of CO2”.
Under CORSIA’s first pilot phase to 2023, airlines will be able to offset their emissions using cheap Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) units.