Canada’s Carbon Neutral Aviation Challenge

When Pickering Airport opens in 2028 all new flights will be Carbon Neutral under ICAOs CORSIA plan. This makes Pickering Canadas first carbon neutral airport. A historic win for Canadian aviation on the road to net zero emissions by 2050.

A big change is under way in the world of commercial aviation. As of January 1st, 2020, all international aviation growth is going carbon neutral. Domestic Canadian aviation will follow step. For Pickering Airport, a new international airport to be built just east of Toronto, it means that all of its flights can be carbon neutral when it opens in 2028.

For more than a decade, the aviation industry (airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers and air navigation services providers like NAV Canada) — has had the goal of addressing its share of human-caused CO2.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is the specialized body of the United Nations devoted to civil aviation that agreed to the vision of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onward. The mechanism to achieve this is the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

At the 2019 ICAO Assembly, member nations reconfirmed their commitment to CORSIA.  The plan is to cap net emissions from 2020 onwards and to cut them in half by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. This aligns aviation with the objectives of the COP21 Paris agreement. For a decade ICAO has been collecting and sharing emissions data from hundreds of airlines and thousands of flights around the world. ICAO’s robust multi-sourced data is eclipsing older single-source theoretical models, often based solely on cherry-picked European sources. This enables policymakers as well as consumers to make decisions based on the most accurate and consumer-friendly emissions calculator in the world.

In parallel to ICAO’s CORSIA, Airports Council International (ACI) established the “Airport Carbon Accreditation” (ACC) program in 2009.  At COP21 Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and ACI entered a partnership to promote and advance the program.  The program is supported by the ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference), ICAO, the FAA, Transport Canada and the UN Environment Program.

To date, 295 airports worldwide (representing more than 44% of global commercial passengers) are participating in the ACC program. Sixty-two (62) including Dallas-Fort Worth, Schiphol, Rome, and London’s Gatwick, Stansted and City Centre airports have achieved the highest level of accreditation – Carbon Neutrality.

The first international airport to be built in Canada in a generation, Pickering Airport can and should be carbon neutral at first flight. Becoming carbon neutral would be a fitting tribute to Canada’s role as the host nation for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In Canada, there are several key challenges ahead on the road to carbon neutral aviation. These include efficiency-killing airport congestion, the threat of a patchwork of aviation-discriminating taxes and acquiring enough high-quality carbon offsets to satisfy the aviation industry’s demand.

The capacity that the new Pickering Airport will provide will go a long way to resolving the congestion projected for Canada’s busiest airport, nearby Toronto Pearson International.

The threat from a patchwork of competing national and regional taxes is a bit harder to resolve.  While a limited consistent carbon tax across all transportation fuels should not be an issue, specific aviation taxes could introduce incentives to be carbon inefficient. A good example of one such compromising tax was proposed in the Canadian Green Party’s “Vision Green” policy statement. In it a reference is made to an “Carbon Equivalency” tax that could double any normal jet fuel carbon tax. The justifications for this tax appears to be based on the unfounded  fear that contrails could double the impact of aviation carbon emissions.

An extra carbon tax specifically targeting jet fuel would undermine the efforts to reduce carbon emissions in two distinct ways. Firstly, it would encourage Canadians to take the other primary method of travel between most Canadian cities, the automobile.  Thanks to advances in aviation technology, and ICAO’s extensive multi-source emissions data collection from Canadian airlines, it is clear that driving solo long distances in the average Canadian car now produces up to three times the carbon emissions of flying.   Secondly, as a result of the “import parity effect”, and the Canadian population’s close proximity to the US border, airline operators would now have a financial incentive to purchase fuel in the US. This will lead to fuel tankering in aircraft that would reduce aircraft load and performance. It has been estimated that in 2018 in Europe 900,000 tonnes of excess C02 emissions were created by this practice.

Something extraordinary is happening in aviation, it is going carbon neutral, leaving its critics looking like a Picasso painting. Flying is not only the safest and fastest way to travel, the Airbus 220 and other modern jets now produce less emissions per 100 Km per seat than a Vespa Scooter.

Special Canadian-only jet fuel taxes will create an incentive for suboptimal routing to enable the purchase of jet fuel in the US. Currently, Toronto Pearson offers nonstop flights to three-quarters of the world’s major destinations. This would change to indirect routes with more short-haul flights connecting to nearby US hub airports rather than optimal direct flights to a destination. The irony is that the Green Party’s policy will increase rather than reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to unnecessarily putting Canadian travellers’ freedom of movement at the mercy of a US border agent.

Lastly, and just as importantly, government taxes on aviation raise the cost of travel for everybody and are major disincentives for economic competitiveness. The first casualty will be Canada’s ability to attract Low-Cost Carriers, the growing and highly competitive, highly efficient sector of commercial aviation best able to replace the automobile with locally accessible aviation.

Another challenge is the lack of “Made in Canada”, local verifiable carbon offset credits. Few currently exist in Canada despite the aviation industry’s new-found hunger to pay for these credits.  Many carbon credits outside of Canada, particularly those related to reforestation, have been found to be useless. Problems range from outright fraud (forests not being replanted), to the trees not being properly managed after being planted. The on-line independent US news organization, ProPublica, published an exposé  concerning a Brazilian reforestation project, concluding that carbon credits for forest preservation in Brazil may be worse than nothing.

To fill the need for “gold-standard” carbon credits, we need locally-sourced and verifiable projects. For example, planting 1 billion trees would cover the Canadian aviation industry’s emissions of 7 Mt (megatonnes) created by domestic and 14 Mtby international flights. This is an opportunity for a new green Canadian industry, not a burden to be shuffled off onto a distant third world nation.

In the face of multiple, cascading environmental uncertainties, it is time for hard choices and thoughtful efforts to support ICAO’s CORSIA plan and ACI’s ACC program with Canadian offsets.

It is time to build Canada’s first all carbon neutral airport – Pickering Airport.


ICAO emissions calculator 

Airport Carbon Accreditation

Fuel Tankering explained

The inconvenient truth about carbon credits


13 thoughts on “Canada’s Carbon Neutral Aviation Challenge

  1. “The capacity that the new Pickering Airport will provide will go a long way to resolving the congestion projected for Canada’s busiest airport, nearby Toronto Pearson International.”

    Toronto GTAA is not saying that. They used to project that… BUT…. Not any more. You seem to live in an alternate reality.

    1. Ivan, Your constant declarations on Pearson’s capacity are in stark contrast to the GTAAs outgoing CEOs call to build Pickering Airport. It is also counter to years of thoughtful studies, historical statistics and examples set by other snowbelt airports.

      The newly adopted ICAO rules on aircraft separation are hard won, paid for in the blood of pilots and passengers and are not to be trifled with, just because you think your house may be under Pickerings approach path. NAV Canada does a great job running Air Traffic Control at Pearson airport and is proud of how it uses the latest techniques including flow control and time-based wake separation to maximize Pearson’s all-weather capacity. If you think that you have an idea to increase capacity that doesn’t involve playing cowboy, breaking noise curfew, or only flying in good weather, you should let them know. Good luck.

  2. “World First: NAV CANADA Implements New ICAO Separation Standard at Calgary International Airport”. Is this what you are talking about? Or is it reduced separation of the Parallel runway requirements as is “close proximity parallels….and HUR requirements currently under study at GTAA according to Anthony McKay AVP NAV Canada as of 1 year ago.?? Otherwise “blood of pilots”. give me a break… U using big words for small minds??..OK back at you… AND there is nothing “cowboy” about it. It’s TERPS stuff and 1X10 to the 7th , 8th and 9th. It’s also MANOPS and no one there will fancy your talking “cowboy” stuff.

    If you have published comment on wake separation that changes the 56 movements /hr on GTAA’s single runway and ~90 movements /hr on “twinned” runways that impacts on GTAA’s published capacity formulae then I would be interested. Otherwise….

    I do not make “declarations”. I quote published GTAA documents and I do the math as should you. You and all your readers can see it on a “real capacity” You Tube video published (Search) under my name “Ivan Battye”. I have some small corrections to make, but it is easy to understand if you can do grade 10 math and know what IMC is. Your “thoughtful” GTAA types do not. We met. We asked. Believe me they didn’t.

    I do not live under an approach, nor would it be an issue if I did. I do not have “primordial raptor response” issues. Re airports: personally I believe every town should have one… Particularly Oshawa. Just against dumb, ill planned, overpriced, useless ones.

    Re: CEO Eng….. truth be known?? My bet ..he was fired. That what happens when your (GTAA) legal council (SL) misspeaks publicly and misdirects the Minister of Transport… in writing, twice… Took 3 weeks for her. He got grace to avoid embarrassing the gov. The captain can not blame his crew or say he didn’t know…?

    1. Flooding the field with misinformation doesn’t change the GTAAs masterplan of 48 movements an hour on runway 23, and 60 on twined 24L&R under the new rules . I don’t even thinK they can do that Under IMC 18 hours a day, but hey their simulator says that the traffic mix will enable it, and they are hitting that peak today at key times of the day under the right conditions, so ok. We all should given them the benefit of the doubt after all they have studied it to death.
      But to blatantly state that one of the most respected Canadian CEOs was fired instead of retiring just because he called for the construction of Pickering Airport is outrageous. Wishful thinking is not proof .

  3. The 48 and 60 movements they use and u quote are the IMC reduced numbers ( 56 and 75 in visual). IMC occurs at Toronto according to their formulae and documentation only 14 % of the time. There are no new rules.

    Thus it is a falsification of the data (for the second time) and fraud, based a confusion of IFR operations and IMC conditions. At the last annual meeting ENG stated, he could not do the 119/hr of the original 2007 annual report, in private conversation (witnessed). Thus it is too hard for me to comprehend that the confusion is not intentional. The alternative is gross negligent stupidity and you of all people should know that. I suggest every “line” pilot using the GTAA knows that.

    The 60 used takes no account of their (GTAA) professed ability to do 90 /hr (upgraded from 75 in visual conditions ) on the NS runway in the 2017 plan. Inputting that 90 number into the formulae for the 6 runway configuration places max. annual capacity over 1 million and they are not even 1/2 of that today. In time, that places airport max limit beyond 2060, with close spacing and HUR etc. beyond 2070, and that is by linear projection which has a long history of failure.

    The capacity issues most folks experience at Toronto are based on terminal overcrowding. Eng manages his business for max profit. He engineers the over crowding, profits from it, and sells it for government handouts.

    Re ENG, the cheating is on signed paper and attested to by Minister Garneau (Transport) and Minister Bains (Corporations). Want copies??

    1. Ivan,
      As much as I would like to bitch about the GTAA, they are world class experts, they spent years pulling every last inch out of the airports capacity. They have a huge $$ incentive to maximize that capacity.
      When they called uncle, and implemented a draconian reservation system for business jets, and then started to turn away some of those jets to reduce traffic At key times, it’s for a reason.


      Air Canadas dumping of Air Georgian also appears to be motivational in part by the need to consolidate and upsize. Fewer aircraft larger sizes, that is Pearson’s only way forward.

      December’s 60% on time performance stats say it all. 10% of all scheduled airline flights got cancelled. Whatever theory you want to roll up and smoke, it doesn’t match real world data.

      Real world data says they are not even doing the 48&60 under IMC. In case you have forgotten, that’s 25% of the time during the winter months and can be especially bad at peak winter travel holidays. But if the GTAA say they think they can eventually do it, I will take em at their word.

      As for going beyond those limits, have at it, but don’t be surprised if no one listens to you. You need better arguments than these, especially as you are retired from flying and have land under what some think is one of Pickering’s approach paths Over Whitby. ( hint it’s not)

  4. OK Mark
    Riddle me this. Bombardier’s Global manufacturing operation is moving to Toronto. GTAA took the contract and the property lease Test flighying is non scheduled. has its own constraints, requires multiple specialty fire trucks positioned and ready, and will most definitely not be on 7 days notice. They will be lucky to get 7 hrs notice with anything like 50% regularity and that covers take-offs only. The return time is anyones guess.

    Real world.. I agree they can’t do even the reduced 48+60. You are finally beginning to grasp the point. The math of capacity says one thing, the reality says another. Ergo the only rational conclusion THEY ARE NOT WORLD CLASS, and to cover their failures in my view they resort to continuing and ever changing public fraud.

    They say they plan and schedule for 90/hr. Their absolute theory max on a 5 runway E/W operation is (56+84)140/hr. (On the 6th runway proposed it is (84+84=168) and remember they claim they can do 90 on the N/S pairing and so then 140 should not be any real problem). Measuring the reality against the theory is “benchmarking”. They disguise the theory max. because they can not stand TO the true benchmark. They declare they are at 95 % efficiency. They are more like 45%…Expect legal and banking issues…

    This is a quote from a senior NAV Canada type (bet you know him);
    “The capacity of the airport and system capacity are two different things. NAV CANADA could flow at a higher rate if conditions were optimum (maybe even 90 for a few minutes) but that would saturate the airport and cause problems (parking, customs, baggage). It would also be putting aircraft at minimum spacing which works fine until something doesn’t work. The delay caused by one overshoot would be felt for many hours by many aircraft.”

    As a relevant aside – Toronto Cntr. is decidedly both slow and change resistant when compared to their southern counterparts. These airport hourly rate numbers are consistent with other world airports. See Gatwick . Atlanta, Chicago .

    Toronto has 106 gates..Eng constrains the gates to spread the peak load duration, increasing the terminal efficiency and his financial return. He crowds it up. .. good for him . If he wanted to he can increase his terminals and gates, but this has nothing to do with “airport capacity” and Pickering. He should and is overdue. Remember he comes from the old Hong Kong. He knows this stuff.

    Eng just uses the excuse of Pickering to keep the real issue off the table. The real discussion, his efficiency,…. he does not want to talk about. It needs to happen.

    Air Georgian is a red herring… and where I live is irrelevant and wrong…. stop that.

    There is not a single licence aviation professional anywhere at the GTAA senior management levels , Board, or Consultative Committee. That is contrary to the legal/ guidance requirements of any aviation operation worldwide.. See FAA’s 8400.10. They do not know in reality who or what their primary customer is. They do not know what an airport or an airplane IS at a FAR 25, Class 7 (Scheduled Airliner) level, and what little they do know is being lost to retirements. Further, Transport is in the same boat so that what little oversite they CAN provide is fundamentally becoming non existent. (Garneau remarkably being an outlier from the norm.)

    The Boeing lesson is real, catastrophic and will not go away. Canadian aviation professionals need to wake-up. There is no National Airport System.

    The GTAA is a GROUND lease operation for the one and only Toronto airport. That is it. They have no AIRSPACE and they do not “control” airplanes except when they are parked. They cut the grass, clear the snow, maintain the buildings/parking lots, collect the rents, bathe airplanes in alcohol – -occasionally, etc., suck their copious lolly-pops, and …..they are good at it.

    Because I am retired, and am totally independent, I can say these things. Think about that. It is called “Old man planting shade trees”.

    1. At the core of our society lies a problem-solving approach called the scientific method. Let’s apply it to prove or disprove your theory:

      Form a Hypothesis (a testable explanation)

      Yours is that Pearson airport is not being properly managed

      Make a prediction based on the that Hypothesis

      Pearson can take twice the aircraft per hour in IMC conditions than stated in its current masterplan

      Test the prediction by observation :

      Are other snow belt airports able to take double the jet traffic per Runway per hour predicted by the GTAA?

      – None

      -at key times of the day mid morning and late afternoon rush congestion is occurring at many snow belt airports attempting to push past Pearson’s stated limits, including Pearson.

      Can anyone drop on by and land utilizing all that excess capacity you predicted?
      -No Despite a large $$$ incentive Pearson is now limiting access.

      -Pearson has new draconian measures to limit small aircraft and cap its movements.

      -a new lease holder, Bombardier asked for 12 IMC slots a day, they received half that as part of its land lease deal.

      Results of testing by observation is that your hypothesis is a failure.

  5. No Theory and no Hypothesis here from me. Just doing the math and you have the sources and references. The Toronto capacity formula is Transports, and it has been around for 50 years. The weather % reduction is theirs, not mine. The runway numbers theirs , not mine…Winter conditions etc. all are included. It says so. Increases in 2017, theirs. All theirs, not mine.

    You on the other hand apparently do make things up as now does the GTAA. No references. Just shovelling …
    RE Bombardiers .. BS.. I checked with the man. He laughed. I can not think who is feeding you this stuff???? 12 slots ?.. not in a month of Sundays. Why would you think to say that to somebody who actually has done that job (in better times) for 15 + years?

    Facts, credible sources, references. No Trumpisms. Aviation as a math based business. It is an exacting and fearsome mistress, most particularly at its’ senior levels.

    1. The actual facts state otherwise.

      For BA operators the GTAA has a comprehensive system in place that allows skyservice and other FBOs to request access to Pearson for thier clients up to 30 days in advance, but of course they charge for this service. A simply way to turn scarcity into profit .

      All in all a good system to solve the congestion issues although it means some are simply turned away.

      It’s called “Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM)” the rest of us call it a slot. A-CDM restrictions reduce congestion at peak period and maximize the efficiency of operations for all airport users and service providers.

      The full system is described here:

  6. “Actually the facts….”
    I guess we will all know when gtaa builds the (planned and approved) 6th runway.. and (lead up) gates that go with it…Till then UR ..just bleating.
    Attend the AGM in May and ask.

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