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  • Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials

RSB book-and-claim pilot with Air BP enables certified SAF claims from Microsoft, United

Photo: United Airlines

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials’ book-and-claim pilot with Air BP will unlock increased supply for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) users and their customers, including United Airlines and Microsoft. Microsoft is joining the pilot to purchase SAF via book and claim to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with its corporate travel. The Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance, a joint initiative of Environmental Defense Fund and RMI, is advising on the design of the book-and-claim system and collaborating with RSB on the development of an electronic registry to transparently record SAF emission reductions and claims.

“Book and claim” is a solution that enables organizations to purchase SAF emissions reductions without being geographically tied to SAF production sites. Essentially it enables airlines to purchase SAF credits on top of their conventional fuel, paying the premium for SAF to the SAF producer, who then sells their SAF as conventional fuel. This solves the issue of the often-vast distances between SAF supply and demand. While the customer is not technically flying on SAF, their purchase demonstrates market demand and supports the development of SAF supply globally. In turn the customer can claim their SAF purchase towards their GHG reduction goals.

A book-and-claim registry is used to trace transactions and ensure they are credible, traceable and do not lead to double counting of the GHG benefit by multiple parties. The SAF supplier books their SAF into the registry, where it is then claimed by a customer. A robust traceability system that guarantees full transparency and zero risk of fraud is essential to ensure the system can be widely supported by the market, which is why the registry must be managed independently by a trusted partner.

In this pilot, Air BP will supply 7,000 gallons of waste-based SAF that achieves approximately 80 percent GHG emission reductions to United at airports in the U.K. The resulting emission reductions will be claimed by Microsoft and the transaction will be registered with RSB.

Ensuring credibility in this approach—specifically to make sure that there is no double counting of the environmental benefit—is vital for SAF’s long-term prospects as a tool to reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry, and its support by the market. RSB has developed a book-and-claim system, grounded in its robust requirements for traceability and subject to third-party audits and verification, to guarantee full traceability and mitigate the risk of double counting.

The feedback and input of RSB’s multistakeholder membership—representing industry, civil society, academia, and more—on the book-and-claim pilot project will be key to ensuring credibility and broad support of the book-and-claim system going forward.

This pilot is part of a larger agreement between United and Microsoft. Microsoft has made a commitment to sourcing future fuels from only RSB-certified supply chains through SAF criteria considering issues of land use, traceability, feedstock sourcing, and more. This is a clear signal to the SAF industry that brands and end-users are going to be looking for fuel that not only provides emission reductions, but that robust and credible sustainability credentials are going to be vital.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is a critical strategy to decarbonize aviation, and a healthy market for SAF in the future depends on clear carbon-accounting rules today,” said Elizabeth Willmott, manager of Microsoft’s carbon program. “We need to ensure transparency and credibility for any environmental claims for sustainable aviation fuel purchases. This pilot offers a promising opportunity to do just that.”

With United providing a vital bridge between Microsoft and the fuel from Air BP, its participation is showcasing how airlines can bring meaningful benefits, in the form credible and traceable emission reductions, to corporate customers.

“Successful decarbonization partnerships require transparency and trust,” said Lauren Riley, United’s managing director of global environmental affairs and sustainability. “With this project, we are making transparency and trust easier, enabling future partnerships that will help create a sustainable future for commercial aviation.”

Elena Schmidt, executive director of RSB, added, “I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Microsoft and United’s participation on this exciting pilot project with Air BP. Their participation in the project really highlights how this innovative approach can add real value for companies that are setting ambitious goals on decarbonization—taking the pilot into the real world. Microsoft’s commitment to sourcing RSB-certified fuel is a fantastic example of how companies can use their buying power to drive positive impacts, even outside their own direct supply chains.”

Kelley Kizzier with EDF said SABA looks forward to applying the lessons learned from the pilot to the development of an electronic book-and-claim registry while Bryan Fisher with RMI called this book-and-claim system “a game changer for the SAF market” that, through virtual ownership of SAF’s environmental attributes, can accelerate the technology by unlocking new payers and their resources.

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