Will International Aviation Go Green with Carbon Offsetting?


Travelling by air has become an essential part of modern life and to the global economy, with 3.5 billion people flying and 51 million tonnes of freight being transported annually. The International Air Transport Association expects that by 2035, 7.2 billion people will travel by air. This mainly due to the fact that the cost of flying has fallen by 60% over the last 40 years, making it more and more accessible to the masses. Although there have been gains in air transport in terms of the design, manufacture and operation of aeroplanes, the impact of increased air traffic on the environment is yet to be fully realised.

Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and international aviation presently contributes 1.3% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In this article, we will look at what steps the aviation industry is taking to reduce its emissions and lower its overall impact on the environment. In addition to stricter safety and security regulations enforced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), it has also developed a new global CO2  standard for aircraft: the Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).  191 members approved the scheme at the 39th ICAO Assembly in Montreal Canada last October and it is the first global scheme of its kind aimed at capping the sector’s carbon emissions after 2020.

Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation

Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation

The aim of carbon offsetting is to neutralise the proportion of an aircraft’s carbon emissions to improve environmental performance. This scheme has been welcomed as international aviation is not covered under the Paris Agreement, but the industry is a key component in accomplishing its goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

How it will work

The average level of CO2  emissions from international aviation covered by CORSIA between 2019 and 2020 will represent the basis for carbon neutral growth from 2020, against which future years will be compared. In any subsequent year from 2021, when international aviation CO2 emissions covered by the scheme exceed the average baseline emissions of 2019 and 2020, the difference represents the sector’s offsetting requirements for that year.

This climate action plan aims to support the airline’s efforts to stabilise emissions with carbon neutral growth and technological improvements, improved infrastructure, more streamlined operational improvements to reduce noise and fuel burn and a wider deployment and use of sustainable alternative fuels. CORSIA will commence with a voluntary period (2021-2026) and after which the scheme will become mandatory. Approximately 65 countries have already volunteered for the first phase.

Will this be the beginning of a more sustainable future for aviation and will this scheme help the industry to better manage its carbon footprint? Will it help the Paris Agreement in achieving its aim of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels?

If you work within the aviation or aerospace industry and are unsure how certain pieces of environmental legislation apply to your operations, please get in touch. The Pegasus Legal Register is a customised register containing all applicable legislation and customised implications informing you and your organisation of how legislation applies to your operations and what you need to do to comply.






Carbon Emissions , Carbon Neutral Growth , Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme , environmental impact , Greenhouse Gas Emissions , International Aviation , Paris Agreement
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