Airlines and NGOs lobby for EU clean jet fuels

1 Feb 2022 by Tom Otley
Deutsche Post DHL_a300

Air France-KLM, Easyjet, Ryanair and Deutsche Post DHL have joined forces with NGOs in a ‘Fuelling Flight Initiative’.

The background for the initiative is a legislative proposal from the European Commission, known as ‘ReFuelEU’, which is part of a package of draft climate legislation meant to reduce EU greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 55 per cent in 2030 versus 1990 levels and to make the EU climate-neutral by mid-century. The draft legislation will be considered by EU national governments and the European Parliament in coming months.

To become law, this draft climate legislation must be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament. The alliance says that the Regulation will face pressure from some industry actors to weaken safeguards (by including crop-based biofuels, expanding the list of what’s considered advanced biofuels). The worry for some airlines and the NGOs is that any target which expands crop-based biofuels will be unsustainable.

The current proposal introduces an obligation on jet fuel suppliers to blend a growing share of SAFs (both advanced biofuels and e-kerosene) into fuel provided to airports in Europe. That obligation covering both types of fuels starts in 2025 at 2 per cent, and grows to 5 per cent in 2030 and further beyond that. The regulation excludes the use of crop-based biofuels, which are a cure worse than the disease given their negative impacts on climate and biodiversity and instead, it mandates the use of advanced biofuels and e-kerosene.

The support for e-kerosene is especially important, as it is the only fuel type which can be sustainably scaled up to meet the fuel demands of the sector. The mandate applies to all fuel sold in the EU , therefore covering all flights including long-haul departing flights. The Regulation also includes a financial penalty for non-compliance.

Sustainable aviation fuels: Ready for take-off?

As well as urging resistance to the inclusion of crop-based biofuels, the alliance wants an increase in the amount of e-kerosene targeted compared with advanced biofuels. That means increasing the 2030 e-kerosene sub-target of 0.7 per cent and decreasing the advanced biofuel target of 4.3 per cent in 2030. The reasons, according to the alliance, is that advanced biofuels are limited in availability and many types actually have negative environmental and climate impacts. The current proposal has a very low e-kerosene target, and a priority should be to increase that target beyond the proposed 0.7 per cent in 2030 and 5 per cent in 2035.

The alliance between the airlines and NGOs commends the European Commission for its exclusion of food and feed crop-based biofuels, but urges the EU’s legislators to strengthen the proposal by adding:

  1. Earlier and more ambitious sub-targets for e-kerosene (see joint statement for conditions)
  2. Financial support to enable new biofuel feedstocks, under strict sustainability criteria
  3. The creation of a European Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) industrial alliance with a focus on research and development
  4. A comprehensive SAF registry applying to fuel suppliers

Aviation was a growing source of EU greenhouse gases before the pandemic, accounting for  4 per cent of European emissions. Europe-wide regulatory action such as around SAF blending mandates will spur the development and use of clean jet fuels.

The Fuelling Flight Initiative was convened by the European Climate Foundation and Climate Works. Technical advice was provided by the International Council on Clean Transportation. 

“Europe urgently needs to provide investment security for the most sustainable aviation fuels, while avoiding the risk of lock-in to those fuels that have no place in our zero-emissions future,” said Pete Harrison, executive director for EU policy at the European Climate Foundation. “By joining forces, our diverse group has been able to craft future-proof guidance.”

The following organisations support the initiative: Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany (AIREG), AirFrance-KLM, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Easyjet, the European Climate Foundation, the European Cockpit Association, Natuur & Milieu, Ryanair, SkyNRG and Transport & Environment.

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