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Aviation industry opts to water down flagship climate plan

Aviation industry opts to water down flagship climate plan

The global aviation industry has been accused of backtracking on its climate commitments after controversially agreeing to change the rules for its forthcoming carbon reduction scheme in light of the disruption caused by COVID-19, sparking fears the moves will lead to higher emissions.

The 36-member council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — the United Nations-affiliated body which governs the industry at a global level — in effect opted to water down the rules of its flagship Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for Aviation (CORSIA) in a unilateral decision last week.

Hailed as a landmark moment for efforts to curb the growing climate impact of global air travel when it was first adopted by ICAO in 2016, the market-based offsetting scheme was due to begin implementation from next year with an overall goal of delivering "carbon neutral growth" for the sector from 2020.

Future emissions reductions through the scheme were to be measured against a baseline established by taking an average of aviation emissions from 2019 and 2020. But with international air travel and therefore overall emissions from the aviation industry having taken a nosedive this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, CORSIA's 2020 baseline would have been lower than expected, creating a far more challenging decarbonization pathway for airlines than anticipated when the scheme was first agreed.