The EU Commission’s unpublished assessment of the UN’s aviation offsetting scheme (CORSIA) calls into question whether it is in any way compatible with the EU Green Deal. The study also says that is “unlikely to materially alter” the impact of air travel emissions.
CORSIA is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation adopted by governments in 2016. It aims to address the CO2 emissions of international aviation from 2021.
The EU study, obtained by Transport and Environment, provides an analysis of CORSIA as well as the main findings of its efficiency to reduce emissions. It considers the impact of several scenarios on aviation emissions. They are: using just the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to regulate them, only CORSIA, or a combination of both.
One of the conclusions is that it is “questionable whether the carbon offsets actually deliver emissions reductions” since “none” of the approved offsetting plans meet the required criteria.
The assessment also points out that: “CORSIA is the worst option for the climate…This option is associated with the biggest global net aviation CO2 emissions increase…”. If CORSIA happens to replace the existing EU climate regulations, it “risks undermining the ability to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century”.
The main criticism is that international aviation emissions remain unregulated. According to the study, the scheme also allows airlines to compensate for their emissions by investing in carbon offsetting projects. It doesn’t encourage actual reductions of those emissions.
Furthermore, the low price of CORSIA-eligible carbon offset credits is insufficient to stimulate emissions reductions. The price is $2 per ton of CO2 compared with the EU Emissions Trading System which provides $48 per ton.
The EU commission is expected to propose in June its recommendations on the mitigation of aviation industry emissions. They would include whether international flights should also be regulated by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Only flights within the European Economic Area are currently covered by the scheme.
Brussels is also working on quotas to regulate airlines to use low-carbon fuels. That is done before technologies such as hydrogen-powered aircrafts become available in the coming decades.
Serious questions are raised about CORSIA and the quality of carbon offsets by the EU study. The clear lack of transparency and enforceability is encouraging the EU Commission to rely on established policies like ETS to address pollution of European flights.