In addition to the issue of offsetting, international aviation intends to rely on controversial “sustainable alternative fuels”. The single currently realistic alternative to fossil-based kerosene is vegetable oil. The only way to produce the required quantities of such fuels economically would be to use palm oil, which is already one of the driving forces behind deforestation worldwide. Of the original twelve sustainability criteria, the ICAO dropped ten in 2017, including those on land rights, food security and biodiversity conservation. What remained was the condition that alternative fuels produce at least 10% lower emissions than conventional kerosene. This wording gave Saudi Arabia an opening to demand that “clean oil” be deemed a green alternative fuel. Airlines can thus enjoy lower reduction commitments if they use kerosene produced in new, more efficient refineries, or in refineries running on renewable electricity.
Some EU states have called for the reintroduction of the dropped sustainability criteria. Studies by Changing Markets and others show that this would also be inadequate, however. Sustainability criteria and certifications fundamentally lack credibility and binding character. In the palm oil sector, for example, none of the existing schemes has so far succeeded in reducing deforestation, drainage and biodiversity loss. In an open letter dated June 11, 2018, 90 organizations underscored that CORSIA could make the aviation industry a new driver of deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations, and called for effective measures instead of offsets and biofuels.