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Government launches major consultation over aviation emissions

The aviation sector is currently undergoing many trials. Covid-19 has led to the cancellation of millions of flights globally and is proving a great challenge not only to carriers, but to everyone working in the aviation industry. The other great challenge is the response of the aviation industry as a major polluter, to climate change.

Generally, international aviation has been excluded from climate change agreements as it represents a vital and irreplaceable (at least in the immediate future) part of the wheels of the global economy. The industry, however, is keenly aware of its obligations and has made a significant investment in new materials and technology to reduce their emissions so far as they can.

A key plank of the industry’s response to the climate emergency has been the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), agreed in 2016, which requires operators to offset their emissions after 2020. The scheme comes into operation this year, voluntarily until 2027, although many of the largest polluters including the US and China began in 2020.

With more than 70 countries representing 85% of international aviation activity having signed up to the scheme, it looks set to play a core role in efforts to tackle aviation emissions. Last week, the UK Government launched its consultation on proposals to implement the scheme looking at the need for secondary legislation to cover monitoring, reporting and verification; and any potential options for the scheme to interact with the pre-existing UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

It’s a detailed and thorough document, covering all the key elements, and asking six (slightly leading questions) about the proposals contained within. It is also quite an interesting consultation. International agreements are rarely consulted upon by Governments, but with this sort of market-based measure underpinned by an international agreement becoming more common (particularly in the environmental sphere), it could be something we see more of as time goes by.

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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