In 2010, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted two goals in respect of the global environment: a two per cent annual fuel efficiency improvement, and a carbon neutral growth plan from 2020 onwards. In order to achieve this latter goal, during the 39th ICAO Assembly, held in Montréal September 27 to October 7, 2016, the majority of the 191 member states voted in favour of a global-market-based measure known as CORSIA (the carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation).

CORSIA is designed to be implemented in phases. The pilot phase and the first phase are voluntary and span from 2021 to 2026. As at the end of the assembly, 66 member states (which represent approximately 86.5 per cent of the global international aviation activity), including Canada, agreed to participate in the voluntary phases of CORSIA. The second phase, which spans from 2027 to 2035, is mandatory for all states with an individual share of international aviation activities above 0.5 per cent of the total or whose cumulative share equals 90 per cent of the total. Among other exemptions, member states that are small islands, least developed countries or land-locked developing countries are exempt.

CORSIA operates on a “route-based” approach such that only emissions resulting from international flights between two countries, where both countries are participating in CORSIA, are included.

Each operator monitors its annual fuel consumption from all CORSIA routes throughout the year and estimates its carbon dioxide emissions. This information is then provided by the operator to its national authority, which, in turns, provides the information to ICAO. ICAO uses this information to estimate an annual sectoral growth factor of emissions. Each operator then calculates its offset requirements based on this growth factor and its actual emissions. Each operator is required to purchase the corresponding number of emission units from the carbon market. ICAO is currently developing policies relating to (1) a monitoring, reporting and verification system, (2) criteria of emission units to be purchased by operators, and (3) registries. These policies are aimed at ensuring that offsets are purchased from high-quality and reliable sources. Once the scheme is finalized, beginning in 2022, it will be reviewed every three years.

Questions of enforcement methods, if any, have not yet been addressed. However, there has been no indication that the ICAO scheme will adopt the lien-based provisions proposed in the EU scheme.

As host to ICAO, Canada recognizes the value of CORSIA and the Minister of Transport. Marc Garneau has said that “[t]he Government of Canada recognizes that, through global cooperation and efforts to ensure the seamless transport of passengers and goods, new ways can be found to help ensure the air transportation system is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable.” Whether Canada will take a leadership role in this regard is left to be seen.