Policy Solutions

The Aviation Industry and Climate Change

If the aviation industry were a country, it would be one of the top-ten highest global carbon dioxide emitters. And as our world becomes increasingly connected and more people get access to air travel, emissions from the industry are growing at a rapid rate.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is taking responsibility for their growth and addressing climate change. The aviation industry has committed to capping emissions at 2020 levels, despite expected growth in flights. This will be met through using fuel alternatives, efficiency measures, and technology developments to reduce the emissions growth with the remaining emissions required to be offset.

Airline offsetting scheme

To meet these targets, on October 6, 2016, ICAO approved the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which is the first global offsetting scheme to cover an entire industry. CORSIA will be implemented in phases, starting with voluntary participation in 2020. So far, 66 of the 191 countries that make up ICAO have agreed to join the voluntary cycle, representing 86% of aviation emissions.

Airlines around the world must now prepare for this scheme and the projected demand from airlines for carbon offsets is huge: 142–174 Mt by 2025, increasing to 443–596 Mt by 2035.

As the figure below shows, offset demand could be up to 7.8 billion tonnes cumulatively from 2020 to 2040.

Watch ICAO’s short video on the scheme


Airlines can start buying carbon credits now to lock in low prices for high quality supply. The ICAO resolution allows for offsets from the Clean Development Mechanism and Paris mechanisms, including REDD+, subject to offset criteria. While policies have yet to be decided on offset criteria, airlines can hedge price risks by using market tools such as options where they can buy offsets at a given price in the future.

How forests can help

At Ecosphere+, we believe that forests have a critical role to play in helping the aviation industry meet its climate change targets. High value, cost efficient forest carbon assets are available now, and in quantities that can help to meet the significant demand from the industry.

But not only would forest carbon assets help the airline industry take responsibility for its carbon impact, but they would funnel investment into securing vast tracts of threatened forest and the communities and wildlife that depend on them. Through their compliance with the CORSIA scheme, airlines and their passengers could also help to deliver on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Unlike investing in other types of carbon credits such as from landfill sites, buying forest carbon assets has benefits beyond just carbon savings:

  • New revenue from carbon and organic coffee or cocoa beans and eco-tourism helps to alleviate poverty in developing countries. For example, just one of our projects in Peru resulted in nearly 1000 farmers being employed.
  • Sustainable farming in the forest provides food security for local and indigenous people as well and increase productivity for products grown to be exported on the global market.
  • Forest conservation prevents desertification meaning a secure water supply.
  • Wildlife is protected and no longer as endangered from habitat loss.
  • Our projects work to empower women on the ground, such as education on starting their own businesses and funding healthcare facilities specifically for women and children.
  • We are also supporting a land legalization program that provides the 67 indigenous communities in our Guatemala project the title they need to empower their stewardship of this region.

At Ecosphere+

Ecosphere+ has become an official partner of airlines through the International Airlines Transport Association (IATA) to help them to navigate the new emissions regulations. For example, Ecosphere+ spoke as a carbon expert at IATA’s workshop series to help guide the industry and will continue to support building the airlines capacity to prepare for CORSIA. Part of the aviation industry and want to know more about buying offsets under CORSIA?