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International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council Must Ditch Biofuel Plans and Abandon the Myth of 'Carbon Neutral' Growth

June 11, 2018

From 11th to 29th June 2018, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council will be meeting in Montreal. High up on the agenda are proposed rules for a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). CORSIA is based on the false assumption that carbon emissions from the fast- growing aviation industry can be mitigated through carbon offsetting and biofuels.

During the High-Level ICAO Conference on “Sustainable Alternative Aviation Fuels” in October 2017, member states rejected proposed biofuel targets for aviation. At that time, 96 civil society groups had warned that such targets would lead to significantly further expansion of monoculture plantations — most likely oil palm plantations, and thus to more land-grabbing and food price volatility, more deforestation, more biodiversity destruction, more agrochemical use, and pollution of freshwater, without reducing the climate impacts of aviation.

Yet even without explicit targets, proposed CORSIA rules could open the door to large-scale use of biofuels in planes.

Proposed CORSIA rules would allow airlines to use any biofuels to try and meet ‘carbon neutral growth’ commitments from 2020, as long as they meet two extremely weak criteria, with no credible mechanism for enforcing even those. ICAO’s environment body had previously proposed 17 environmental and social criteria, which might at least have made it much more difficult for airlines to use palm oil. However, as a recent report by Changing Markets illustrates, there are serious inherent problems with relying on sustainability certification. In relation to palm oil, the report concludes, “none of the schemes has been effective at slowing down deforestation, peatland draining or the loss of biodiversity”.

The only type of biofuels suitable for aircraft that can be reliably produced at scale is based on Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), and palm oil (including a fraction of palm oil falsely described as a residue or waste), is the favourite feedstock for HVO production because it is the cheapest vegetable oil on the world markets and the cheapest to refine.

ICAO’s biofuel plans therefore threaten to turn the aviation industry into a new driver of deforestation — as well as land-grabbing and land and human rights abuses. At the same time, they do nothing to address the ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, linked to the industry’s unending growth.

It is even more worrying that — besides biofuels — ICAO’s CORSIA will allow airlines to achieve so-called “neutrality” through the use of carbon offsets. ICAO’s carbon offset plans were denounced by 80 civil society organisations in 2016. In January 2018, Virgin Atlantic pulled out of a forest carbon offset project in Cambodia after high levels of deforestation as well as serious human rights abuses were revealed in the project area — meaning the aviation emissions were not being offset at all. Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated incident, and airlines can expect more and more of these cases to be exposed as the industry’s use of offsets expands.

The future of offsetting is even further in doubt because achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement requires all states and all sectors to cut their emissions to zero. There is therefore no role for a mechanism where one sector avoids emission cuts by paying other sectors to cut theirs.

Finally, there are even proposals to allow fossil-fuels to be classified as ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ and to be credited under CORSIA. This could mean kerosene from oil refineries where heat and power come from burning wood, which is falsely classified as carbon neutral (which would put yet more pressures on forests) — or kerosene sourced from oil wells that require less energy to drill than others, would be classed as sustainable.

We urge the members of the ICAO Council to reject CORSIA mechanism, which is based on the false solutions of biofuels and offsetting plan — and which may even reward fossil fuel companies directly - and to take the aim of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5oC seriously, which cannot be achieved unless aviation growth is ended and reversed.



ETC Group

Friends of the Earth International

GAAM (Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement)

Global Forest Coalition

IFOAM - Organics International

Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad

Third World Network

World Rainforest Movement


Biofuelwatch, UK/US

Corporate Europe Observatory, Europe

EKOEnergy, Europe

Fern, Europe


Abibiman Foundation, Ghana

Accion Ecologica, Ecuador

ActionAid USA

Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth), France


All India Movement of Forests, India

AMAF-Benin, Benin

Animals Tasmania, Australia

Arbeitskreis Regenwald und Artenschutz (ARA), Germany

Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad, Colombia

Asociación Red de Coordinación en Biodersidad, Costa Rica

Balkani Wildlife Society, Bulgaria

Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), Germany

CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions), UK

Campaign Against Climate Change, UK

Campaign for Climate Justice Network (CCJN), Nepal

Carbone Guinée, Guinea

CESTA (Friends of the Earth), El Salvador

CNCD-11.11.11, Belgium

Coalition for Rivers, Czech Republic

Colectivo Voces Ecológicas (COVEC), Panama

Comité Nacional para loa Defensa y Conservación de los Chimalapas, Mexico

Coordinadora de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Oriente del Estado de México en defensa de la Tierra, el Agua y su Cultura, Mexico

Corner House, UK

Denkhaus Bremen, Germany

Dogwood Alliance, USA

Ecologistas en Accion, Spain

Econexus, UK

Energie Hunger - Nein Danke!, Germany

Estonian Forest Aid (MTÜ Eesti Metsa Abiks), Estonia

FASE (Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional), Brazil

FDCL (Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e.V.), Germany

Finance & Trade Watch, Austria

Fórum da Amazônia Oriental (FAOR), Brazil

Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany

Foro de Cambios Climáticos y Justicia Social (FMCJS), Brazil

Frente Amplio no Partidista en contra del Nuevo Aeropuerto y otros Megaproyectos en la Cuenca del Valle de Mexico, Mexico

Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina

Friends of the Earth Ghana

Friends of the Earth Malaysia

Friends of the Earth US

Fundación del Río, Nicaragua

Global Justice Ecology Project, USA

Grupo Carta de Belém (GCB), Brazil

Indigenous Perspectives, India

KRUHA Indonesia (People’s Coalition for the Right to Water), Indonesia

Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz für internationale Entwicklung und Mission (KOO), Austria

Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, AC, Oaxaca-Chiapas, Mexico

Mangrove Action Project, US

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, USA

Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth), Netherlands

Movimiento de los Pequeños Agricultores (MPA), Brazil

NOAH (Friends of the Earth), Denmark

Otros Mundos A.C./Amigos de la Tierra (Friends of the Earth), Mexico

Oui au train de nuit, France

Pro Natura (Friends of the Earth, Switzerland

Pro Regenwald, Germany

Pro Wildlife, Germany

Proyecto Gran Simio (GAP/PGS), Spain

Quercus, Portugal

Oakland Institute, USA

Partnership for Policy Integrity, USA

Pivot Point, USA

Pastoral de la Tierra del Vicariato Apostólico de Yurimaguas, Peru

Rådet for bæredygtig trafik (Council for Sustainable Transport), Denmark

Rainforest Foundation UK

Regenwald-Institut e.V., Germany

Restore: The North Woods, USA

Rettet den Regenwald e.V., Germany

Robin Wood, Germany

Salva la Selva, Spain

Save America’s Forests, USA

Sequoia ForestKeeper, USA

Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity, Tanzania

Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team, Thailand

ZERO - Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System, Portugal