di Rosa Manzo

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), emissions from aviation accounts to 2% of the global carbon dioxide emissions, in particular emissions from internationalcivil aviation counts for 2/3 of the total emissions from aviation. While this may seem like a relatively small amount, the prospective growth of this sector has the concrete potential to undermine the climate goal of keeping the temperature rise well below 1.5 degree Celsius.

With this concern in mind, the 39th ICAO Assembly adopted a resolution for the establishment of a global market-based measure in the form of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), to reduce or offset CO2 emissions from international civil aviation above 2020 level. CORSIA is a reduction and offsetting scheme which implies that emissions can grow when they are compensated by offsets rather than reduced (through the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels notably). It is the ONLY global offsetting mechanism.


The scheme is open to all and countries are asked to join on voluntary basis during a 6 years pilot projects from 2021 to 2026. In line with the UNFCCC developed countries are asked to take the lead. From 2027, CORSIA will apply to all international flights except flights to or from small island developing states, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and countries with low levels of aviation activities. Other exemptions refer to emissions from small aircraft (MTOM below 5.7 tons), small emitters (below 10,000 tons of CO2 annually) and from flights conducted for humanitarian, medical and firefighting reasons. Military and governmental flights are completely excluded as they do not fall under the Chicago Convention and, hence, are not within the scope of ICAO. CORSIA adopts a route-based approach as only emissions from flights between participating states are subject to reduction or offsetting.

As a part of the implementation of CORSIA, the ICAO Assembly endorses the adoption of sustainable alternative fuels (SAF), also known as CORSIA eligible fuels (CEF). CEFs do not generate credits. By using CEFs, an aeroplane operator can seek benefits in terms of reductions in CORSIA CO2 offsetting requirements. Sustainable aviation fuels are reported to have the potential to cut GHG emissions by up to 80%.  Examples of SAFs are Power to Liquid Fuel, a synthetically produced liquid hydrocarbon. CORSIA eligible fuels must meet a set of sustainability requirements including that they emit at least 10% less than conventional fuels on a life cycle basis (LCA) and they should not be made from biomass obtained from land with high carbon stock. Not all SAFs are CEFs. The Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS) certifies which SAFs are CEFS. The SCS systems is made up of organizations that certify economic operators against the sustainability criteria, and ensure that economic operators calculate actual life cycle emissions values using the agreed methodology. A list of default life cycle emissions values has been approved by the ICAO Council: to each fuel feedstock, such agricultural residues or palm oil, corresponds a LCA emission value which differ on the basis of the fuel conversion process adopted. An example of The Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process, originally developed by Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch in early 1920s, is a series of chemical reactions that involve the conversion of hydrogen and carbon monoxide into liquid hydrocarbons by using a catalyst. The CEFs which are not the results of the pre-approved fuel convention processes must get their fuel conversion process approved through the SCS.

Under Art.6 Paris Agreement, State Parties are encouraged to employ "cooperative approaches," in a manner that will lead to transfers of mitigation outcomes (ITMOs), promote sustainable development, ensure environmental integrity and transparency, and apply robust accounting measures to avoid double counting. The provision does not provide more details on how to define "cooperative approaches" which allows arguing that CORSIA provides a good example of "cooperative approach."

Use of ITMOs for domestic purposes, CORSIA and any future (potential) IMO scheme for shipping are expected to be a major source of demand for Article 6 units, and when applied towards. 

Autore: Rosa Manzo
PhD International Law and Climate Change, University of Oslo

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