This week, the governing Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) - the United Nations agency that sets standards for global aviation - took an important step forward on climate progress: it approved select tropical forest protection programs for airlines’ use in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions of international flights. ICAO’s decision means that reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD+, certified by these programs are now eligible credits for airlines to use in accounting for their emissions in ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
“ICAO’s decision connects limits on aviation carbon pollution with investments in tropical forest protection and restoration, and is a win for nature, countries, companies and communities. After more than a decade of work on REDD+ frameworks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other fora, this marks the first time that REDD+ credits have been approved for use within a global compliance carbon market system.
“ICAO’s decision to include large, jurisdictional-scale REDD+ programs in CORSIA sends a critical signal to companies and policymakers about the value of tropical forest protection to meet climate goals. It shows forest countries that there is tangible demand for emissions reductions of the highest environmental and social integrity. Approval of these programs will drive progress in reducing emissions at the scale needed to achieve the climate goals set by the aviation industry and in the Paris Agreement.”
Ending tropical forest loss, along with restoration and reforestation efforts, can reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% and is indispensable for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Jurisdictional-scale forest protection and restoration programs can provide highest quality emissions reductions, at scale.
As EDF analysis shows, global climate cooperation through carbon markets can enable double the emissions reductions under current Paris pledges for the same cost as countries acting alone. REDD+ accounts for a majority of this potential to increase global climate ambition in the coming decades.
The inclusion of jurisdictional REDD+ credits in CORSIA will provide a secure supply of high-quality offsets to help the global aviation sector achieve its goals. It will also catalyze critical finance flows for forest protection and restoration and, in doing so, help protect biodiversity and support local livelihoods.
The forest-carbon credits approved by the ICAO Council are based on emissions reductions measured at the level of entire countries or subnational jurisdictions, rather than of stand-alone projects, with some exceptions made for the smallest projects. “Jurisdictional” scale frameworks provide incentives for national and subnational governments to work alongside the private sector, communities, producers, and civil society to protect forests across entire landscapes. The approved jurisdictional programs include the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) and the Verified Carbon Standard’s Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) methodology.
ART uses as its standard The REDD+ Environmental Excellency Standard (TREES), which sets a high bar for environmental and social integrity for credits from REDD+ at a jurisdictional and national scale. EDF has helped to establish the Emergent Forest Finance Accelerator, a non-profit finance intermediary to facilitate large-scale REDD+ transactions, using the ART framework, and is collaborating with ART, Emergent, the UN REDD Programme, and Forest Trends on the Green Gigaton Challenge: Bringing REDD+ to Scale. This initiative seeks to set a demand signal that can scale up to at least a billion tons per year in emissions reductions transacted from high-integrity jurisdictional REDD+ by 2025.
ICAO has clearly moved forward on accounting, as well. The focus of the Technical Advisory Body and ICAO Council on ensuring that programs obtain from host countries written attestations that the host countries will properly account for the transferred reductions, should put wings to the efforts of Parties in the climate treaty talks to finalize clear guidance to assure environmental integrity and prevent double counting of emission reductions, so that carbon markets can do what they do best: catalyze ambitious action to achieve environmental goals.