International aviation offset scheme takes off in Barcelona

Last week I was at the Innovate4Climate conference in Barcelona. 4 days of fascinating presentations, talks and discussion groups, and night spent meeting a wonderful array of people working in a range of truly new and exciting fields, all aimed at finding a way to finance the action required to combat climate change. While Donald Trump withdraws the United States from the Paris Agreement, there is a huge groundswell of people, towns, cities, nations and businesses both large and small who are already committed to the path of changing the way we live so that we humans can enjoy a healthy future on our planet. Experts in rural development met block-chain and crypto-currency pioneers, legal eagles chewed the fat about land-rights with local project developers and venture philanthro-capitalists scoured the crowds for opportunities to deploy capital in a way that leads to genuine sustainable development outcomes. All in all a great way to spend a week, listening, learning and connecting.

It was a privilege to hear from Bertrand Piccard, the pilot of Solar Impulse the first fully solar powered plane to circumnavigate the globe. He assured the crowd that there is the very real potential for a solar powered commercial plane to be commissioned within the next ten years. But the fact is that the aviation industry as a whole, unlike the car industry, has no real prospect of “going renewable” in the near future. This is why the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has committed its members to offsetting the emissions from their main flight routes starting from 2021. And they are considering which kinds of carbon credits will qualify for this offset scheme, now formally known as the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (or CORSIA for short). We are pleased to report that during the conference the message was clear: some forestry credits will qualify for the scheme including those generated from avoided deforestation project like those currently developed by Carbon Tanzania.

The message is clear – we all want to reduce our impacts on the environment for the benefit of humanity, but the pragmatic truth is that we are just not going to allow our economies and societies to go back to the Stone Age. International air travel is here to stay, but there is a need to improve engine technology, to produce greener fuels and to make airliners lighter and more fuel-efficient. Beyond this commitment the remaining emissions are still significant (approximately 2% of global carbon emissions) and unlikely to decline (in fact they will probably rise in the next 30 years). Therefore the industry has taken to step to pay for its impacts, and in a few years your international plane ticket will almost always include the amount required to offset the emissions caused by your trip, and this will go towards programmes and projects that actively reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – it will just be part of the system!

Posted by Jo Anderson, Carbon Tanzania Director.