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  • Writer's pictureAndreas Hardeman

Magic Carpet Ride – Follow Up

(Originally published on 17 September 2018)

In reaction to last week’s blog (CORSIA, A Magic Carpet Ride) some of you sent me questions regarding the scheme’s periodic review, as mentioned in the last paragraph, and the role the ICAO Council plays in that process. Caught between the dual imperatives of being comprehensive and concise, some aspects were indeed left underexposed. So allow me to briefly follow up and – hopefully – clarify.

The latest ICAO Assembly Resolution (A39-3), adopted in 2016, in various ways recognizes the need for monitoring the implementation and the functioning of CORSIA. Resolving Clause 9 g), for example, directs the ICAO Council, starting in 2022, to “conduct a review of the implementation of the CORSIA every three years, including its impact on the growth of international aviation”. This is then picked up and further expanded on in Resolving Clause 18 a) and b), which describes the purpose of this review as “to contribute to the sustainable development of the international aviation sector and the effectiveness of the scheme” and lists in a non-exhaustive manner the elements to be included in these periodic reviews.

It is worth noting that while the scope of the review process indeed includes an assessment of the scheme’s “market and cost impact on States and aircraft operators and on international aviation”, it equally covers a range of additional elements that would appear to set ICAO up for potentially a complete revision of the scheme every three years. In any case, as there won’t be any cost impact to be properly analyzed until after the first compliance period (2021-2023) the earliest opportunity for the ICAO Assembly to consider the Council’s “Clause 18” assessment would only be at its 42nd Meeting in 2025.

And then there is Resolving Clause 17 of the Resolution, the “Safeguards clause”. Specifically, it “[D]ecides on the need to provide for safeguards in the CORSIA to ensure the sustainable development of the international aviation sector and against inappropriate economic burden on international aviation (…)” (bold emphasis added). In principle, this would seem the appropriate place to put down some markers regarding the possibility of emissions unit supply shortages and associated, unsustainable cost levels (as explained in the original blog post).

It is worrisome, however, that in contrast to the triennial review outlined in Clauses 9 g) and 18 a) and b), there is no timeline given for activating the “Safeguards” process or even initiating discussions. Instead, Council is requested to "decide the basis and criteria for triggering such action and identify possible means to address these issues”. One can only imagine the amount of discussion and time involved at the Council level to determine what constitutes an “inappropriate” economic burden, let alone the trigger points and what to do about it. It should also be noted that, as some of you asked and although briefly discussed as part of preliminary proceedings, nowhere does ICAO allude to any specific emissions unit price ceiling (or floor) to somehow moderate the scheme’s cost impact on aviation over time. As it stands, the sky is the limit.

Against the background of a possible emissions unit crunch, and knowing that things tend to take time to work their way through the technical, political and bureaucratic processes in ICAO, it is well worth starting discussions on the “Safeguards” process as soon as possible. So why not during the 215th Council Session starting today?


About the author: Andreas Hardeman (The Hague, 1967) is an internationally experienced air transportation lawyer and an acclaimed aviation writer and commentator on current industry trends. Opinions in this blog are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of his business associates or clients. He can be contacted directly at

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