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Too big to fail? Environmental responsibilities of the UNFCCC and ICAO processes for aviation’s new carbon market

Executive Summary

Last year, states created an offsetting scheme to compensate for aviation’s pollution growth above 2020 levels. The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is supposed to contribute to the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. However, compensating for growing emissions does not reduce emissions overall, nor put the sector on a pathway to do so. ICAO will finalize details for the CORSIA by the end of 2017. Crucial elements include the type of credits allowed, registry design, and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) rules.

The offset credits that CORSIA will use will come from measures in countries with nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. This means that ICAO’s CORSIA affects who is taking credit for accomplishing reductions towards the Paris Agreement. Therefore, the elaboration of the Paris Rulebook and specifically the market provisions will need to take the new offsetting scheme into account.

The CORSIA and the Paris Rulebook will be elaborated under different UN processes. ICAO and the UNFCCC must urgently align these efforts to provide for an effective measure for the aviation sector which needs to be followed by a rapid ratchet in ambition to achieve its own goal of setting the aviation sector on path of the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming below 1.5°C.

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