In simple terms, it means that from 2013 there is a cap on how much the EU aviation industry can emit and the aviation operators will have to keep their emissions within this limit or pay extra. This is an important step of course, but does it result in any emission offsetting? Not really. It is rather limiting the growth of the sector’s emissions.

Unless your aviation operator explicitly offered you to purchase carbon offsets while booking your flights or in any other way clearly indicated that the emissions of your flights were offset, most probably these emissions were left for you to take care of.

Looking at the international aviation measures, the most important one is Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA adopted in 2016. It is a global scheme which will cap global aviation emissions at the level of 2020 and will require all aviation operators from the countries who are parties to this agreement to measure their emissions and purchase carbon offsets to neutralise the emission growth compared to 2020.

While the scheme will become operational from 2021, the pilot phase will run until 2026 with the participation of the volunteered countries, after which participation will become mandatory.
Whereas this measure indeed can have effect on neutralising individual travellers’ carbon footprint, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It will only come into force in 2021
  • The participation will be voluntary until 2027
  • It only applies to the emission increase from 2020 level, leaving 2020 level of carbon emissions not offset
  • Not all major aviation countries agreed to participate in the deal as of July 2017 (e.g. Russia, India)

Based on this, there is still a certain period of time until CORSIA will become operational and by far not all emissions will be offset.