EU to mandate use of sustainable aviation fuels to cut carbon emissions
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The European Union has agreed a deal to help decarbonise the aviation sector by requiring suppliers to blend sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) into their fuel mix in increasing amounts from 2025.
SAFs are typically derived by combining jet fuel with alternatives such as biofuels or recycled oils from industrial food facilities. They are often considered as the most carbon-efficient option for aviation given the limits of current technology, which leaves electric and hydrogen planes in the prototype stage for now.
They can achieve greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70 per cent compared to conventional fossil jet fuels.
The EU predicts its measure will reduce aircraft CO2 emissions by around two-thirds by 2050 compared to a ‘no action’ scenario, and provide climate and air quality benefits by reducing non-CO2 emissions.
Aviation fuel suppliers will be required to provide a minimum of just two per cent SAF at EU airports by 2025 but this will be ramped up slowly to 70 per cent by 2050.
The new EU jet fuel blend will also need to contain a minimum share of the most modern and environmentally-friendly synthetic fuels, which will increase over time.
Aircraft operators will be required to depart from EU airports to refuel only with the fuel necessary for the flight, to avoid emissions related to extra weight or carbon leakage caused by ‘tankering’ practices (deliberately carrying excess fuel to avoid refuelling with SAF).
Adina Vălean, commissioner for transport at the European Commission, said: “This political agreement is a turning point for European aviation, putting it on a solid pathway towards decarbonisation.
“Shifting to sustainable aviation fuels will improve our energy security, while reducing reliance on fossil fuel imports. These kinds of measures help make Europe a front-runner in the production of innovative clean fuels, globally. We estimate that the SAF market will create more than 200,000 additional jobs in the EU, mainly in the renewables sector.”
Airports will need to ensure that their fuelling infrastructure is available and fit for SAF distribution at the dates set by the Commission.
The blending mandate covers biofuels, recycled carbon fuels and synthetic aviation fuels (e-fuels), but excludes food and feed crops.
Since it will apply throughout the EU, it is hoped the new mandate will help kick-start large-scale production across the continent.
Yesterday’s political agreement now requires formal adoption by the Parliament and the Council before the legislation will be formally published.
Aviation emissions in Europe increased an average of 5 per cent year-on-year between 2013 and 2019. While dropping dramatically during the pandemic, aviation emissions are still projected to grow further.
To achieve climate neutrality, it is estimated that the EU needs to reduce transport emissions by 90 per cent by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).
According to a study in February, for the UK’s entire aviation sector to transition to SAFs, 50 per cent of the UK’s agricultural land would need to be devoted to growing the crops needed.
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