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European Parliament adopts position to increase uptake of sustainable aviation fuel

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

The European Parliament adopted its position on new draft EU rules to increase the uptake of sustainable fuels by EU planes and airports, in order to cut emissions from aviation and ensure Europe becomes climate neutral by 2050.

Accelerated introduction of sustainable fuels

Members of the European Parliament increased the commission’s original proposal for the minimum share of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that should be made available at EU airports.

From 2025, this share should be 2 percent, increasing to 37 percent in 2040 and 85 percent by 2050, taking into account the potential of electricity and hydrogen in the overall fuel mix.

The commission had proposed 32 percent for 2040 and 63 percent for 2050.

More types of sustainable fuel, including electricity and hydrogen

Parliament amended the proposed definition of sustainable aviation fuel, a term that covers synthetic fuels or certain biofuels, produced from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, bio-waste or used cooking oil.

MEPs included under their definition recycled carbon fuels produced from waste-processing gas, and exhaust gas deriving from production processes in industrial installations. They also suggested some biofuels, produced from animal fats or distillates, could be included in the aviation-fuel mix for a limited time (until 2034). However, MEPs excluded feed and food crop-based fuels, and those derived from palm oil, soy-derived materials and soap stock, because “they do not align with the proposed sustainability criteria,” the European Parliament press service stated.

MEPs also included renewable electricity and hydrogen as part of a sustainable-fuel mix, as both are promising technologies that could progressively contribute to the decarbonization of air transport. According to the draft rules, EU airports should facilitate the access of aircraft operators to sustainable aviation fuels, including with infrastructure for hydrogen refueling and electric recharging.

New fund and green labeling

Parliament proposed the creation of a Sustainable Aviation Fund from 2023 to 2050 to accelerate the decarbonization of the aviation sector and support investment in sustainable aviation fuels, innovative aircraft-propulsion technologies, and research for new engines. The fund would be supplemented by penalties generated by the enforcement of these rules.

In order to further promote the decarbonization of the aviation sector and to inform the public about greener aviation, MEPs tasked the commission with developing by 2024 an EU-labeling system on the environmental performance of aircrafts, operators and commercial flights.

EP rapporteur Søren Gade of Denmark said, “Aviation is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize. Today we showed how to do this and sent a strong and ambitious signal to the citizens of Europe. We heard you when you called for climate action, and we are working as much as we can to achieve a truly green Europe.”

Next steps

The negotiating mandate was adopted by 334 votes to 95 and 153 abstentions. Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with member states.

Background information

Civil aviation accounts for 13.4 percent of total CO2 emissions from EU transport. The ReFuelEU Aviation initiative is part of the Fit for 55 in 2030 package, the EU’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, in line with the European Climate Law.

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