The International Civil Aviation Organisation is to devise a clear framework with which to calculate emissions from flights as airlines increasingly look at ways to help passengers offset the environmental impact of flying.

ICAO secretary general Taïeb Chérif told the organisation's recent colloquium on aviation emissions that initiatives allowing passengers to offset their aviation-generated carbon footprint lacked a harmonised approach.

ICAO's Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection will now work on developing a common methodology. "This will enable the calculation of the total emissions reduction generated by programmes that are in line with ICAO methodology," said Chérif.

EasyJet recently delayed its scheme to offset carbon emissions, claiming it had been shocked by how much money brokers were charging for administration costs.

"There are a lot of people who have dived into the market who are desperate to make a margin from it. There are too many snake oil salesmen in the business," it says.

The airline says it would instead look to launch a scheme where it would buy UN-backed carbon credits on the open market and sell them to passengers from this summer. "It gets rid of the expensive middleman and it addresses the valid concern about whether it will make any difference to carbon emissions," says the airline.

Andrea Arvanitakis of carbon trading consultancy Point Carbon says: "Because there is no formal system of recording emissions, offsetting schemes are vulnerable to fraud. Airlines need to make sure of the environmental integrity of their scheme and the best way of doing that is through projects that have passed through rigorous examination by independent auditors."

Chérif said ICAO was also consulting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on other flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, such as clean development mechanisms or CDMs.

Source: Flight International