The COVID-19 pandemic has single-handedly enervated countless global industries, with overall consumption levels drastically decreasing. One specific sector negatively impacted by the outbreak of the virus is the aircraft industry, with a total projected loss of over $310 billion dollars. To address these economic losses, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the EU to ease its limits on carbon emissions, specifically regarding the 2016-adopted approach known as Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia). Removing baselines and completely adjusting the already weak Corsia in order to permit increased gas emissions to benefit aircraft companies will undoubtedly allow for greater pollution. In fact, a study done by German institute Öko-Institut revealed that airlines could remain free to pollute without restriction for the next three to six years, and that the EU’s decision could significantly reduce airline obligations, by about 25-75% – just by 2035. Additionally, these lenient emission guidelines could save airlines as much as $15 billion on important climate protection costs, such as carbon credits. The primary justification provided by IATA for the reduction of restrictions is predictable: the COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, the organization stated that the limitations of Corsia were “an inappropriate economic burden on the [aviation] sector” due to the losses suffered by the industry following significant decreases in global traveling. Aviation expert Jo Dardenne agreed “that the aviation sector is clearly using the COVID-19 crisis” to its advantage.
Public response to the EU’s decision was largely negative. Gilles Dufrasne of Carbon Watch explained, “This could be the final blow for Corsia. It was always a ridiculously weak system, but now it is becoming essentially meaningless. Airlines are just let off the hook one more time.” French MEP Pascal Canfin agreed, exclaiming that “the EU should be leading on emission regulation, not watering down the ambition.” In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), numerous non-profit organizations such as WWF and the Climate Neutral Group supported the preservation of Corsia’s guidelines, explaining, “It is important to ensure that the COVID-19 crisis is not a catalyst for ad hoc changes that would hinder a sustainable global recovery. CORSIA is an important mechanism for carbon markets around the world.”
Outside Europe, the United States and the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission have supported the EU’s decision.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has negatively impacted most major industries, with the aircraft sector potentially being hit the hardest. However, is reducing climate protection restrictions the answer?