Examination of Initiatives in Reducing Carbon Emissions

  • 20 Pages
  • Published On: 6-12-2023

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion build in the environment when there is not enough biocapacity committed to absorbing these emissions from the environment. Because of this, when the carbon footprint is presented as part of the overall Ecological Footprint, the tons of carbon dioxide emissions are stated as the amount of fertile land area necessary to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions in the first place. This shows us how much biocapacity is required to counteract the emissions produced by the combustion of fossil fuels (Global Footprint Network). Climate-change-related carbon dioxide emissions, largely resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, have increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The vast majority of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are produced by a very small number of nations. A significant quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulphur oxides (SOX), water vapour, soot, induced contrails and contrail cirrus (e.g., Sausen et al., 2005), is emitted by the air transportation industry. In 2005, aircraft-induced CO2 added 1.6 percent to the overall anthropogenic radiative forcing, according to the International Energy Agency. When the other climatic species are taken into account, the contribution of aviation to overall radiative forcing is around 4.9 percent (Lee et al., 2009; Grewe et al., 2017) On an absolute basis, China, the United States, and the countries in that region the European Union are the three greatest emitters of greenhouse gases. The United States and Russia are the countries with the largest per capita greenhouse gas emissions (Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions). Hence, the problem of carbon emissions in the environment is a pertinent problem which needs to be addressed by both private and public institutions alike.

The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the initiatives which have been taken in order to reduce carbon emissions, especially in the context of the aviation industry emissions. The paper will place particular focus on understanding whether the initiatives put forward by International Civil Aviation Organization in Canada has made any strides with introducing measures like the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (henceforth referred to as CORSIA) and other such initiatives which are aimed at reducing carbon emissions in which are caused by aviation initiatives.


The Convention on International Civil Aviation, which was drafted during a meeting in Chicago in November and December 1944 and to which each ICAO Contracting State is a party, serves as the foundation of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Chicago Convention is another name for this convention. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was created as a specialised body of the newly established United Nations in October 1947 (ICAO). The body is a part of United Nations, and it is the body which is responsible for the initiating and the implementation of the CORSIA initiative, which is an initiative to reduce carbon footprint by the aviation industry. The Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is composed of delegates from all Contracting States, is the organization's supreme authority. It gathers every three years, during which time it examines in detail the activities of the Organization and formulates strategy for the upcoming three years ahead. A triennial budget is also approved by this body. The Council, which serves as the governing body and is chosen by the Assembly for a three-year tenure, is made up of representatives from 36 countries. The Assembly selects the Council's member countries under three categories: countries with the greatest importance in air transportation, countries with the greatest contribution to the providing of air navigation facilities, and countries whose selection will ensure that all major regions of the world are represented (Carbon Brief, ICAO). After decades of arduous international discussions, CORSIA was finally approved at the 39th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in October 2016. (ICAO, 2016). Initially, it will be in effect from 2020 to 2025, with the number of participating states gradually growing over time.

CORSIA strategy

CORSIA is concerned with CO2 emissions resulting from all international flights between CORSIA member countries. Exemptions from this system, on the other hand, have the potential to generate competitive distortions. It has already been stated that the countries excluded from CORSIA are those whose carriers have a combined proportion of international aviation operations in RTKs in the year 2018 that does not exceed 0.5 percent of total (global) RTKs. In certain situations, this has bizarre consequences, since routes to, from, or between nations with substantial air traffic volumes but a lack of important domestic carriers (in a global perspective) may be excluded from the system, resulting in anomalous consequences. According to one understanding, this would relate to nations such as Egypt, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Kenya, Mauritius, the Seychelles, or the Maldives. Despite the fact that these routes generate significant amounts of CO2, they will not be covered by CORSIA (Gold Standard, 2017). So, a number of routes served by big and powerful airlines are excluded from the programme without any clear rationale on the part of the government. This reduces the environmental efficacy of CORSIA and may cause competition between routes and destinations to be disrupted. CORSIA also excludes domestic flights because the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is the United Nations agency responsible for international aviation while domestic aviation is the responsibility of individual countries. This restriction may be of competitive significance for airlines servicing countries with a significant proportion of domestic travel, such as the United States, China, and the Russian Federation, among others (Scheelhaase et al., 2018).

The use of offsetting as a long-term solution is debatable at this point. Some critics believe it is an attempt to pass off the project as environmentally friendly. Many people are also concerned that offsetting will remove the pressure on purchasers to lower their emissions in other ways: they may feel better about themselves as a result of offsetting and will be less likely to consider implementing other emission-reducing measures. Reduce emissions through renewable fleets, fuel economy, and other measures as the role of SAF expands over time, in addition to offsetting emissions that are still present, according to a realistic environmental footprint plan.

Many airline companies have made significant offset pledges which go beyond CORSIA and provide their customers with the option of covering the expenses of offsets on their own dime. The majority of airlines offer passengers the option to offset flight pollution, but only around half of them do so. Additionally, the method to do so can be time-consuming, with consumers being sent to a different website to complete the process. As our study revealed, just a small percentage of fliers—less than one percent—take advantage of voluntary carbon offsetting (Ditcher et al.). Furthermore, the IATA's greatest fear about CORSIA is that it might be undermined by countries that are otherwise well-intentioned. They express particular worry about proposals by certain governments to implement their own carbon pricing devices or passenger ticket taxes in an effort to reduce emissions from aircraft (Bailey, 2020).

Another such initiatives which have bene taken are emission trading, which has also been undertaken by ICAO. Emission Trading or Carbon trading is a complex system with a straightforward goal: to make it more affordable for businesses and governments to meet emissions reduction targets. However, as we will demonstrate, emissions trading is designed in such a way that the targets can generally be met without any actual reductions taking place. The assumption is that the availability of carbon permits will be steadily lowered, assuring scarcity, in order to maintain the market's value while simultaneously driving a reduction in the total amount of pollution. Environmentally speaking, the cap portion is meant to perform the heavy lifting by establishing a legal limit on the amounts of pollutants that are permitted within a certain time period. Each lowering in the quota is, in effect, a new regulatory action implemented by countries and/or international organisations to further restrict pollutant emissions (Gilbertson et al., 2009).

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), in evaluating alternative approaches to addressing aviation's impact on the global climate, the committee concluded that an emissions-trading system would be an expense measure to limit or reduce CO2 emitted by civil aviation in the long term, relative to other market-based measures, provided that the system is open across economic sectors (ICAO). There are several instances of voluntary efforts, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ranging from unilateral acts at the corporate level to negotiated agreements between governments and industries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also discusses the many ways in which optional programmes might be coupled with other policies such as taxes (which most frequently include certain exemptions), subsidies, or standards. The majority of voluntary agreements, in reality, are paired with some form of financial incentive to encourage compliance (OECD; Efthymiou et al., 2019).

In the recent years, there has been an outcry to the authorities for greater taxation of the aviation fuel in order to place a greater financial burden on airline companies to compensate for their Carbon Dioxide emissions. Current EU legislation on energy taxes allows member states to exempt airlines from getting taxed on the fuel they use for foreign flights, and this is something that is done on a regular basis. Thus, despite the worsening global catastrophe, aeroplanes continue to produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions at no cost. In light of the current International Energy Agency report, which projects that carbon dioxide emissions would rise by the second highest level ever, reversing the majority of the reduction observed last year, this is quite alarming, opines Deparnay-Grunenberg et al. (2021). In 2013, The European Union moved to pass legislation for this regard, whereby a tax would be implemented on polluting aviation fuels. In the first 10 years after its implementation, the minimum tax rate on aviation fuel would begin at zero and progressively grow over a 10-year period until the full amount is applied. The final rate was not specified in the draught proposal since it was not yet finalised. During that 10-year period, sustainable fuels, such as renewable hydrogen and advanced biofuels, would be exempt from the EU's minimum taxation regime. Accordingly, the Commission declined to comment on the draught proposal, which may be revised before it is made public (Abnett, 2021).

However, many have deemed this particular move as ‘unproductive’ when it really comes to lessening the carbon footprint from aviation fuels. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Commission proposals to tax jet kerosene used for intra-EU flights would be counterproductive when it comes to measures to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the implementation of taxes under the EU plans doesn’t align well with the sustainable goals that the EU is trying to reach.

The director general of IATA, Billie Walsh claims that taxes suck money away from the business that could be used to fund emissions-reducing expenditures in fleet renewal and clean technology. Hence, he claims that is a measure which will ultimately end up doing more harm than good.

Walsh claims that taxation will result in the extinction of jobs. Incentivizing SAF will increase energy independence while also creating long-term job opportunities. The emphasis must be on promoting the production of SAF and completing the construction of the Single European Sky, according to Walsh (Harper, 2021).

Another initiative which has been taken in order to meet the carbon dioxide control goals is using alternative fuels for aviation. SAF is an acronym that stands for sustainable aviation fuel. Hemp jet fuel is generated from renewable feedstock and has a chemistry that is quite similar to that of regular fossil jet fuel. When compared to the regular jet fuel it replaces, the use of SAF leads in a reduction in carbon emissions throughout the course of the fuel's lifespan. Vegetable oil and other non-palm waste oils from animals or plants, as well as solid waste from households and businesses, such as packaging, paper, textiles, and leftover food that would otherwise end up in landfill or incineration, are some of the most common feedstocks utilised in biofuel production. In addition to forestry waste, such as waste wood, and crop residues, such as fast-growing plants and algae, there are other possible sources of biomass (BP, 2021). The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly, in its Resolution A40-18 (2019), recognised the need for SAF to be developed in an economically feasible, socially and environmentally acceptable manner, and requested States to recognise conventional methods to assess the sustainability of all alternative energy sources in general, including those for use in aviation, which should: achieve net GHG emissions reduction on a long-term basis; and be environmentally friendly. The Assembly also requested that States adopt measures to ensure the long-term viability of alternative aviation fuels, building on existing approaches or a combination of approaches, and that States monitor the long-term viability of the development of various aviation fuels at the national level (ICAO). In order to receive sustainability certification, a SAF must demonstrate that it has reduced overall carbon emissions through the use of lifecycle analysis (LCA), which is a critical component of the certification process. One of the primary reasons for utilising SAF in order to fulfil the aviation industry's aggressive climate targets is its ability to achieve net carbon emissions reductions. The majority of government-sponsored financial incentives for SAF production or usage are only available for SAF that meets certain sustainability requirements. Examples include the United States Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2), the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), the European Union Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and the European Union Corridor of Responsibility for Sustainable Development (CORSIA) (IATA).

Because the supply of gasoline to the commercial aviation sector is on a very small scale, and the distribution network is less sophisticated than that for other modes of transportation, commercial aviation fuel is comparatively inexpensive. This will make it easier to completely adopt SAF than it will be in other modes of transportation, it is predicted. - In the United States, for example, there were around 121,446 retail gasoline stations in 2016. Compare this with the comparatively modest number of international airport gasoline distribution facilities: 180, which handle more than 90 percent of all international passenger traffic. According to the same data point, there were around 1.2 billion cars on the road in 2014, compared to approximately 26,000 commercial aeroplanes in service. Moreover, although the majority of those road cars are owned by people or families, there are only around 1,400 commercial aircraft operating across the world. Given the centralised structure of aviation fueling, integrating SAF into the aviation system should be far less difficult than it would be in a more scattered, less regulated public fuel distribution system, such as the one now in use. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The Agenda is underpinned by a series of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are designed to address the fundamental causes of poverty while also propelling development forward in the world. Aviation, in general, contributes to several of the goals' objectives, with the rising use of SAF assisting in the achievement of SDG 7, which is affordable and clean energy, and SDG 13, which is good governance. The commercialization of SAF can also contribute to the achievement of some of the more socially and economically focused Sustainable Development Goals by creating employment opportunities in developing countries through the diversification of feedstock supply. As the production of SAF increases in size, the sector will pay increased attention to minimising negative consequences on SDG 6, which is Clean water and sanitation, and SDG 15, which is Development of human capital (Aviation Benefits).

Despite the availability of a range of conversion fuels and technologies that might be utilised in commercial aircraft, SAFs account for a negligible portion of current worldwide jet fuel usage. It is critical for the successful and long-term planning and implementation of BAF supply chains that international aviation organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) continue to develop linkages across national borders and to generate contracts between the various stakeholders in the agricultural production, manufacturing, and logistics sectors. Through this collaboration, it will be possible to apply technologies with a high FRL on a commercial scale in the not too distant future. Furthermore, government-sponsored incentives for the use of Bio aviation fuel and levies will make a substantial contribution to the widespread adoption of this technology. Finally, the establishment of an integrated and consistent conceptual framework for the BAF sector will guarantee that worldwide players are able to exchange knowledge with one another and expand their businesses more efficiently over time (Asadi et al, 2018). When it comes to building new technologies, or scale-up current technologies to commercial levels, there will always be more expenses associated with doing so than if you continue to employ established traditional techniques and infrastructures. This is evident in the fact that Bio aviation fuel is constantly more expensive than aviation fuels like Jet A-1. To overcome this obstacle, money is required for both study into cost optimization of processes and process optimization itself. Subsidies for aviation businesses are also required in order to stimulate the changeover from conventional fuels like Jet a 1to BAF fuel. Over time, these subsidies would be sufficient to cover the purchase price of BAF. Unlike the automotive sector, where financial incentives and assistance were provided to make biofuel deployment a success, the aviation industry has not received the same level of assistance (Radich, 2015). This would necessitate an ongoing discussion between international organisations and governments in order to elevate the prominence of the aviation sector and expedite the paradigm change that the industry is undergoing. The collection of more Life Cycle Assessment data on each element of the supply chain for BAF in different nations is necessary to assist its planning, design, and operation. For this data to be strong and credible for critical assessment, the techniques employed for LCA should also be standardised and given open access so that they can be compared with one another more easily (Quarton, 2018).

In order to properly understand the effects of these initiatives, one needs to considered several social and financial factors. Environmentally friendly technologies, such as low-emission coal-fired power plants, and technologies that enable more efficient energy consumption, for example novel insulation materials for large building complexes, can be likened to both value-generating investment assets and productivity increases. These technologies are unquestionably beneficial, but they simply serve to postpone rather than resolve the world's energy-related challenges. Furthermore, despite the fact that sustainable biofuels promise to provide suitable long-term energy alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuels that have demonstrable environmental advantages, global adoption would necessitate significant technological advances (Evans, 2003). This is a prerequisite for the conditions of adopting alternative fuels or SAF for aviation industry and unfortunately, it is likely that many nations will not possess such technological advancements. One of the most significant challenges which face the implementation of such initiatives are the fact that many of the world’s most powerful lobbies to continue with the conventional oil sources, despite the continually growing need for more eco-friendly forms of fuel for aviation.

The essay identified four thematic areas in the forms of initiatives which have been undertaken in order to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry. While it is too soon to find conclusive evidence about whether the initiatives have been making a real impact or not, one can examine the potential pitfalls that these initiatives can have in the implementation process. The potential pitfalls for adopting SAF by nations and aviation companies has been elucidated above, but CORSIA implementation comes with its own set of challenges. The CORSIA Act has not been ratified by all states, and not all signatory governments have agreed to participate in all phases of the Act. The impact of CORSIA differs from operator to operator as well, because the application of CORSIA is determined not by the jurisdiction of incorporation or the location of the operator's principal place of business, but rather by the specific routes that it covers. Additionally, without the power of ICAO to legally enforce CORSIA on any nation, the decision to adopt this initiative falls on the hands of the nations themselves and that is something which is something nations can easily bypass (Cave and Paisner, 2020).

The essay elucidated on some of the relevant measures that can be taken by nations in order to reduce their carbon emissions. In this essay, several things came into light; the implementation of measures like the CORSIA will have to be undertaken in an equitable manner, all the restrictions which come with the implementation of such a measure needs to take into account the fact that there are nations which may not be able to afford taking such measures. additionally, it is likely that these nations did not contribute to the carbon dioxide pollution of the environment as much as the other developed nations did. However, implementing different standards according to different levels of development of nations would almost be like punishing certain nations for being more developed than the other nations, and possibly will not be accepted by them.

This essay shed light on the some of the initiatives which have been undertaken by organizations in order to reduce carbon emissions from the aviation industry. These measures are intimately linked with some of the Sustainable Development Goals which have been put forward by the United Nations. The challenges of these goals are all related to implementation, whereby it will be difficult to take into consideration different nations and their level of contribution to the carbon dioxide levels in the nation. Additionally, new developments need to be taken into account, like the impact of the closing of air travel on airlines and the general aviation industry. The impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on the aviation sector might cause international air traffic to stay low for several years, making it feasible (and perhaps even likely) that real emissions will not climb beyond the Baseline in the foreseeable future. Participating Operators may not be obliged to offset their emissions for several years until air traffic levels begin to recover to normal levels as a result of this situation.

In the aviation sector, there is growing concern that growth restrictions imposed by insufficient or inappropriate infrastructure, as well as environmental issues, are playing an increasingly important role in impeding the implementation of expansion strategies. Sustainable development is not synonymous with efficiency, which is something the aviation sector in general excels at. While civil aviation may have a positive balance in terms of the economic and social pillars of sustainability, it provides a demonstrably negative contribution to the third pillar, environmental sustainability, for the time being. It is clear from the vast range in climate consequences across different SAF conversion methods that merely substituting petroleum jet fuel with any alternative jet fuel would not be enough to achieve profound decarbonization in aviation. While the application of CORSIA provides both the structure for crediting the use of SAFs in air transport as well as an extensive set of default emission factors to understand their effects of climate change, eligible SAFs do not necessarily need to provide greater than a 10 percent reduction in emissions in order to be considered eligible for credit (Pavlenko and Searle, 2021). Hence, it is important for the implementation process of these measures to correspond to each other and relate with each other’s goals and objectives in order to successfully work.

Critical Reflection

The following section will look at the problems which have been raised in the earlier section and attempt to understand the functioning and implementation of the policies in the light of how they impact the aviation industry and its stakeholders.

The CORSIA is anticipated to enter into force in 2021; however, adoption will be entirely voluntary until 2027, when it will become mandatory. The intermediate period will include a pilot phase (from 2021 to 2023) as well as the “first phase” (from 2023 to 2025). (2024 to 2026). From 2027 onwards, the implementation of CORSIA will be required for all ICAO Member States, including the United States. The member states of ICAO constitute Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico and many other states (ICAO).

Under CORSIA, airlines will be required to acquire international credits for their emissions on international flights that exceed the threshold set by the 2020 Kyoto Protocol. The specifics of how these "2020 levels" would be computed are still being worked out; however, it is probable that they will be based on the emissions of a Member State rather than the emissions of a single airline, to allow for new entrant airlines, for instance (Aviation Benefits, 2021).

One of the criteria for an airline will be to check its emissions on foreign flights and to provide documentation demonstrating that it has acquired international credits in the proper amount. The CO2 emissions from a contemporary aircraft engine are exactly proportional to the amount of fuel spent. As a result, the verification requirement is dependent on the amount of fuel consumed. In addition, because larger airlines keep extremely precise records of the gasoline spent on each flight, they should have no trouble showing how much fuel is consumed on qualifying flights. Smaller firms may not have as accurate records as larger airlines, making it more difficult for them to produce the necessary proof. Airlines that fly in Europe, on the other hand, would have had several years of experience estimating and confirming their fuel use in accordance with the EU ETS criteria by this point (Ricardo Energy and Environment, 2017).

For the second part of the agreement, airlines will be required to acquire foreign credits to offset their carbon emissions. Airline companies are now forced to acquire permits at particular auctions under the EU ETS; but, under CORSIA, they will be able to identify and implement offset schemes of their own. While it may appear that this will place an extra burden on the airlines, other companies will already be obtaining offsets, as a result of their obligations under the Paris Agreement, and as a result, there will likely be a significant amount of help and information available in the near future (ICAO).

Challenges exist in the implementation of SAF as well; despite the fact that SAF production routes have the potential to decarbonize the aviation sector, they confront major sustainability problems (Wang et al., 2019). Technical uncertainty (Bauen et al., 2020), societal impression (Filimonau and Högström, 2017; Filimonau et al., 2018), the environmental effect of production and distribution (Michailos, 2018), and economic concerns are all factors that contribute to these issues, among others (Bann et al., 2017). The decision-making environment becomes more complicated as a result, especially given the high level of unpredictability in the industry.

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The measure of carbo trading is tricky when it is not done well, as well. A market would be formed where parties may bargain for the right to determine their own activities, rather than having the government dictate each party's conduct through direct, which is command-and-control regulation. If we are talking about carbon emission permits, these would be permits that grant the bearer the right to emit a specific tonnage of carbon per year, and which might be purchased and traded between individuals and businesses. While inter-party transactions are very inexpensive and there is a large number of potential sellers and purchasers, this arrangement should result in negotiations between parties that result in a decrease in total carbon emissions in the most cost-effective way feasible (Lejano et al., 2020). Hence, in a market like situation, it is likely that the stakeholders with lesser financial power will be able to exercise less control over the market. In this situation, many inequalities can occur. One is the subject of inalienable rights, and the other is the question of the ethics of enabling an organization to pay another in order to avoid fulfilling its ethical responsibility (Caney and Hepburn, 2011). An further consideration is the possibility of incommensurability between some commodities (Aldred, 2012), such as the disaster that may be inflicted by global climate change not being able to be expressed in monetary terms. Carbon trading is being criticised from a neocolonial viewpoint, with some critics charging that it is another another instance of neoliberal policies that are perpetuating existing inequities (Bachram, 2004).

A tiny but vocal chorus of criticism has emerged since the notion of creating carbon markets for greenhouse gas reductions was first mooted, with many who doubt the proposal's fundamental ethical foundations and real-world implications raising legitimate concerns. It is easy to see why such a dissent would take place and it is the responsibility of the governing bodies to make sure that the dissent is not ignored or sidelined.


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