The European Parliament on September 13 approved a new law to increase the uptake of sustainable fuels, such as advanced biofuels or hydrogen, in flights departing from airports in the EU, a move hailed by the five leading aviation associations representing Europe’s airlines, airports, civil aeronautics industry, and air navigation service providers.
The associations, which are close partners through the DESTINATION 2050 alliance, include A4E, ACI EUROPE, ASD, CANSO Europe, and ERA, welcomed the adoption of the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation, noting that Sustainable Aviation Fuels, or SAFs, are a crucial component of the ambitious decarbonization targets set out in the alliance’s roadmap and adoption of Europe’s ReFuelEU legislation lays the foundation for ambitious blending shares of SAF in aviation fuel.
As the aviation sector accounts for 13.9% of transportation emissions in the EU, the RefuelEU aviation ambitious rules seek to encourage the aviation sector to use sustainable fuels to cut emissions. However, according to Europe’s Aviation Safety Agency, the current SAF supply remains low at less than 0.05% of total fuel use in the EU.
European Parliamentarians set a timeline on the provision of the jet fuel mix, obliging EU airports and fuel suppliers to ensure that, starting from 2025, at least 2% of aviation fuels will be green, with this share increasing every five years: 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045 and 70% in 2050. In addition, a specific proportion of the fuel mix (1.2% in 2030, 2% in 2032, 5% in 2035 and progressively reaching 35% in 2050) must comprise synthetic fuels like e-kerosene.
According to the new rules, the term “sustainable aviation fuels” will include synthetic fuels, certain biofuels produced from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, bio-waste, used cooking oil and animal fats. Recycled jet fuels produced from waste gases and plastic are also considered environmentally friendly.
Feed and food crop-based fuels and fuels derived from palm and soy materials will not be classified as green as they do not meet the sustainability criteria, MEPs said. They also included renewable hydrogen as part of a sustainable fuel mix.
EU label for the environmental performance of flights
As of 2025, there will be an EU label for the environmental performance of flights. Airlines can market their flights with a label indicating the expected carbon footprint per passenger and the expected CO2 efficiency per kilometer. It will allow passengers to compare the environmental performance of flights operated by different companies on the same route.
“This is a tremendous step towards the decarbonization of aviation,” said Spanish European Parliamentarian Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz, the EU’s rapporteur. “It is now time for governments (in the EU) to implement the new rules and support the industry to ensure the cost-effective deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuels across Europe as well as meeting European targets,” he added.
Race for greener aviation fuel begins
While EU investors and industrial partners have now received a clear signal to unleash their investments, Europe shall ensure that the required uptake of SAF consumption will boost the European SAF industry, DESTINATION 2050 argued, adding that the international race to become a SAF leader has started. The ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation should be complemented with further incentives to scale up SAF production and uptake in Europe through their inclusion into the EU Net Zero Industry Act as part of the strategic net-zero technologies, mirroring the American approach in the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Aviation is global by nature, and we need to ensure the decarbonization of aviation is global as well. The European air transport sector strongly encourages the wider promotion of SAF worldwide,” DESTINATION 2050 said, stressing that political support for the net-zero future of aviation is key. They called on states and the wider aviation industry across all world regions and at the global level to join forces and rally around ambitious and credible SAF objectives – to ensure aviation globally remains on track to attain the ICAO Long-Term Aspirational Goal of global net zero carbon emissions for aviation by 2050.