International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

Current Status

The International Civil Aviation Organization and Sustainable Aviation Fuels

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations Specialized Agency established by the Chicago Convention, is the globally recognized forum for establishing standards and recommended practices for civil aviation. ICAO works to achieve its vision of safe, secure, and sustainable development of civil aviation through cooperation amongst its member States. It includes 193 Contracting States and 86 International Organizations. The ICAO General Assembly of States meets every three years, which sets the direction and pace of ICAO work. The ICAO Council includes 36 member states with permanent representatives, and conducts day-to-day oversight of ICAO work program.

ICAO has five Strategic Objectives:

  • Safety
  • Air Navigation Capacity and Efficiency
  • Security and Facilitation
  • Economic Development of Air Transport
  • Environmental Protection

The Environmental Protection component is supported by the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which is a standing technical committee of the ICAO Council.

Role of CAEP

A key strategic objective of ICAO is to minimize the adverse effect of global civil aviation on the environment. To that end, CAEP assists the ICAO Council in formulating new policies and developing new Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), and provides technical analyses and studies at the direction of Council. Its focus areas include noise, local air quality (LAQ), and international aviation greenhouse gas emissions. CAEP includes 27 Members from all regions of the world and 19 Observers (including States, International Non-Governmental Organizations, United Nations Bodies, and Regional State Organizations). More than 600 internationally-renowned experts are involved in CAEP activities and working groups, including many members of CAAFI’s Steering Group and Leadership Team.

ICAO, drawing on the work of CAEP, has set an aspirational goal of carbon neutral growth (CNG) from 2020 onwards. This goal is to be achieved with a “basket of measures” for CO2 reduction (A39-2), including technology and standards, operational improvements, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and market-based measures.

⇑ Back to top

Key Topics

ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) was agreed to by the ICAO General Assembly in 2016 as part of the basket of measures to reduce CO2 emissions from international aviation. The ICAO Council issued the first edition of Annex 16 – Environmental Protection, Volume IV on 27 June 2018, at which time CORSIA became the first global market-based measure for any economic sector. CORSIA establishes a market-based mechanism to enables airlines to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 CORSIA Eligible Fuels and/or carbon offsets.

Under CORSIA, airline operators report their emissions associated with international flights to the State (country) from which they operate, which then report these emissions to ICAO. For the initial, voluntary phase of CORSIA (2021-2029), ICAO will calculate a sector-wide growth in emissions (above the baseline commitment) that will provide the percentage value of the emissions that airline operators are required to offset by buying emissions units (tons of CO2) under approved offset schemes.

Airlines can reduce requirements to buy offsets-by purchasing and using qualified CORSIA Eligible Fuels, which can include both sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and lower carbon aviation fuels (LCAF). Annex 16 Volume IV defines these fuels as follows:

  • CORSIA eligible fuel. A CORSIA sustainable aviation fuel or a CORSIA lower carbon aviation fuel, which an operator may use to reduce their offsetting requirements.
  • CORSIA sustainable aviation fuel. A renewable- or waste-derived aviation fuel that meets the CORSIA Sustainability Criteria under this Volume.
  • CORSIA lower carbon aviation fuel. A fossil-based aviation fuel that meets the CORSIA Sustainability Criteria under this Volume.

To be considered for inclusion in CORSIA, SAF must offer reduced carbon emissions over conventional petroleum-based fuels and must not be produced from the conversion of high carbon stock lands. Thus far, three sustainability criteria have been approved for SAF for the pilot phase. A set of default life cycle greenhouse gas emissions values have been approved for a specific set of SAF pathways, and a CORSIA-specific greenhouse gas life cycle analysis methodology has been established for calculating actual life cycle emissions values. Compliance with these requirements is certified by a Sustainability Certification Scheme (SCS), which must have already been approved to verify compliance by ICAO. Requirements for the SCS are outlined in the CORSIA Eligibility Framework and Requirements for Sustainability Certification Schemes. A list of these schemes will be available on the CORSIA website once they are approved. SCS can apply for approval on an ongoing basis

As of June 2020, eighty-three countries have volunteered to participate in CORSIA in the two voluntary phases from 2021-2026, which is anticipated to cover 77% of anticipated emissions growth due to international aviation activity. After 2027, all States meeting certain criteria related to their aviation activities will be required to participate (excluding Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, and Landlocked Developing Countries), and the offsetting requirements will shift from sector-wide to include individual airline operator growth factors.

⇑ Back to top

Tools & Resources

ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)

⇑ Back to top