CORSIA: Counting down to launch

International carriers around the globe have been rushing to meet a looming deadline for having systems in place to monitor, report and verify their carbon dioxide emissions in accordance with national regulations and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) was adopted by Canada and the other ICAO member states in October 2016 as part of a broader effort to make aviation carbon neutral. It will apply to international carriers only. Boeing Photo
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ICAO projects that without corrective action, international CO2 emissions, which currently account for about two per cent of all global CO2, could grow by 60 to 80 per cent between 2020 and 2035, because of growth in demand for air travel services. In October 2010, at the behest of an industry concerned about potentially conflicting national regulations, ICAO adopted a resolution which set “aspirational” emissions reduction targets for larger airlines, including a global annual average fuel efficiency improvement of two per cent. The goal was to cap annual global net emissions at 2020 levels.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) was adopted by Canada and the other 191 ICAO member states in October 2016 as part of a broader effort to make aviation carbon neutral. Flights subject to the regime will reportedly account for more than 600 million tons of CO2 annually between 2021 and 2035 if nothing is done.

One of the largest carbon pricing instruments in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions coverage and the first such agreement by a single industry in a global market-based approach to climate change, CORSIA is designed initially to offset increases after 2020.

Offsetting by airlines enables them to compensate for emissions by financing emission reductions elsewhere.

“Offsetting and carbon markets are a fundamental component of global, regional and national emissions reduction policies,” ICAO said in a working paper. “They have operated for decades for compliance purposes and voluntary emissions reductions and continue to be an effective mechanism to underpin action against climate change.”

In the longer term, ICAO adds, aviation is committed to reducing its net emissions by 2050 to half of what they were in 2005. “Achieving this ambitious goal will require continued investment in new technologies and strong support mechanisms for the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels.”

All ICAO members are expected to receive their operators’ Emissions Monitoring Plans (EMPs) by next Feb. 28, 2019. However, the Canadian government has been strongly encouraging all emitters of more than 10,000 tons of CO2 annually to submit their EMP by Jan. 1, 2019, in order to smooth Canada’s approval process and to ensure compliance with ICAO’s CORSIA standards and recommended practices (SARPs).

Amendments to the Canadian Aviation Regulations published in the Canada Gazette Part II last month (Vol. 152 No. 24) specify the 10,000-tonne cap but exempt all domestic services, aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight below 5,700 kilograms, and humanitarian, medevac and firefighting flights. The changes also include formulas for calculating emissions based on fuel consumption and procedures for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

Operators have until Feb. 28 to submit monitoring plans to Transport Canada for at least the next two years, and any still below the cap must submit a plan within 90 days of exceeding it. The amendments also require operations to ensure that verified emissions reports are submitted to Transport no later than May 31 following the calendar year in which monitoring was carried out. Operators may request that “certain information be considered confidential” when verified reports are presented to ICAO.

Asked about the major carriers’ state of readiness, Wayne Gouveia, senior vice-president at the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), acknowledged the looming deadline, noting the association hosted a CORSIA workshop at its annual conference and tradeshow last month in Vancouver.

“We had an opportunity to work with Transport Canada in a workshop session,” he told Skies. “We also heard from an ATAC airline that has the experience and right technical analysis in place for monitoring, reporting and verification.”

That airline was Air Canada’s largest regional partner, Jazz Aviation LP, which operates a mixed fleet of Bombardier regional jets and Dash 8 turboprops.

“Verification is going to be a key component in the future of this whole project for all airlines involved,” added Gouveia.

Hence the International Air Transport Association’s recent confirmation that it would be offering a course designed to teach verifiers how to get CORSIA accreditation.

When it was suggested that this initiative might be too late, given the impending deadline, Gouveia demurred. “Not really, because a list of accredited CORSIA verifiers will be available on the ICAO website, as well as on the Transport Canada website, in due course. Canadian operators will be able to choose from that list. There’s no regulatory compliance requirement at this time, although Transport Canada did say at our meeting in Vancouver that we would have CORSIA in Canada Gazette II by the end of this year.”

He said that Transport Canada had run a pilot emissions project with Air Canada and Sunwing Airlines, which were “probably the most advanced Canadian airlines in terms of having all the tech analysis in place to be compliant.”

Moreover, carriers flying to Europe have been working with the European Union Emissions Trading System, which he said is similar to CORSIA in its MRV requirements. “Many of our airlines . . . are significantly along the way in terms of knowing the reporting requirements and having the data-gathering capability.”

Carriers must use a verifier who is an independent body/individual contracted by the operator to get its Emission Report verified. No airline can go through this step internally. The role could be contracted out, even to ATAC, but Gouveia acknowledged that the organization doesn’t have anyone eligible on staff.

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“There is a pool of accredited verifiers and they have to meet a very high standard.”

That means being plugged into the airline industry is a plus (knowing how to read operational documents, data transmission systems such as ACARS, and knowing about fuel uplifts, etc., is important). “They have to have a lot of context in order to spot anomalies or gaps,” said Gouveia. “It takes a lot of experience to be able to do that.”

He also said even though there is still “a fair amount of the market” in wait-and-see mode below the 10,000 tons of CO2 mark, preparedness is widespread. “Some are further along than others,” he added. “Smaller operators just bumping over that mark are the ones which are going to have a big wake-up call when this becomes a regulatory requirement.”

Fleet renewals with more aerodynamic aircraft powered by more efficient engines (newer designs are up to 20 per cent better than previous generations) are seen as a key to satisfying CORSIA requirements going forward. “We’re working on being more calculated on the amount of weight we carry in aircraft, fuel hauling, etc.,” said Gouveia, adding that pilots nowadays prefer tablets over weighty manuals as an example of weight saving.

“And other small operational things that change the routes we fly, reducing flight times with Nav Canada’s approaches and so forth – those things are helping, of course,” he said. “Just knowing that we have to contribute in terms of operating our airplanes more efficiently – for example, taxiing with one engine to the ramp helps to reduce emissions on every flight. At the end of the day, it’s all about reducing fuel consumption.”

CORSIA is designed to take into account ICAO states’ differing circumstances and capabilities. From 2021 to 2026, only states which volunteer for the first phase will be subject to the offset requirement; but from 2027 on, all international flights will be subject to the new rules except those to and from the least developed countries, small island developing states, landlocked developing countries and others which represent less than 0.5 per cent of international revenue ton kilometres, unless they volunteer to participate.

Nevertheless, all operators must report emissions for all international flights to and from the exempt states.

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