Airlines blame Covid-19 for rowing back climate commitments [Stuff, 07/07/20]

“The worst year in the history of aviation” is how the International Air Transport Association (IATA) describes 2020. The global airline-industry body expects carriers’ revenues to fall by half and debt to swell by $120billion (NZ$183 billion) to $550 billion (NZ$839 billion).

To cut costs, airlines have grounded planes and put staff on unpaid leave. Another slashed expense is that of climate action. Aviation emits 3 per cent of man-made carbon dioxide. That share could rise to 5-9 per cent by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency, a forecaster.

To curb these emissions, in 2013 the European Union tried to add international aviation to its emissions-trading programme, including flights connecting EU airports to those outside the bloc.

The industry cried foul. In a compromise the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an agency of the UN, devised the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. CORSIA, as it is known for short, is due to start next year. It compels airlines to buy offsets for any additional CO2 produced by international flights above a baseline.

That baseline has become hotly contested. It was originally set at the industry’s average emissions for 2019 and 2020. Now emissions are forecast to fall by 37 per cent this year, which would mean a lower baseline–and so, in time, higher offsetting costs.

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