Members of the European Parliament have voted to increase the amount of mandatory sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to be used in the EU by 2050, as part of the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation. The RefuelEU aviation rules are part of the “Fit for 55 package”, the EU’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to ensure the EU becomes climate neutral by 2050.
The timeline on the provision of jet fuel mix obliges EU airports as well as fuel suppliers to ensure that jet fuel is increasingly green. Starting from 2025, at least 2% of aviation fuels will have to be green, with the share increasing every five years. From 2030, at least 3% of jet fuels have to be green, 20% from 2035, 34% from 2040, 42% from 2045 and, finally, 70% from 2050.
Moreover, the law stipulates specific proportions of the fuel mix that have to be synthetic, such as e-kerosene. From 2030, at least 1.2% of fuels need to be synthetic, 2% from 2032, 5% from 2035 and progressively reaching 35% from 2050.
This is a tremendous step towards the decarbonisation of aviation.José Ramón Bauzá Díaz, European Parliament rapporteur
The MEPs also clarified what constitutes sustainable or green aviation fuels. Synthetic fuels, renewable hydrogen, certain biofuels produced from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, bio-waste, used cooking oil or certain animal fats are all classified as SAF. Recycled jet fuels produced from waste gases and waste plastic are also considered green.
Importantly, the law ensures that 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.
Besides setting the SAF targets, the Parliament voted for flights in the EU to display environmental performance labels from 2025. Airlines will be able to market their flights with a label indicating the expected carbon footprint per passenger and the expected CO2 efficiency per kilometre, allowing passengers to compare the environmental performance of flights operated by different companies on the same route.
“It is now time for EU governments 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 EU targets. There is no time to lose. In a complex and competitive world, I fully believe that ReFuelEU is a great opportunity to position the European Union as a global leader in the production and use of SAF”, said European Parliament rapporteur José Ramón Bauzá Díaz.
The five leading European aviation associations representing Europe’s airlines, airports, civil aeronautics industry and air navigation service providers, forming the Destination 2050 alliance (Airlines for Europe, ACI Europe, ASD, CANSO Europe and ERA), welcomed the adoption of the regulation. “While EU investors and industrial partners have now received a clear signal to unleash their investments, the EU shall ensure that the required uptake of SAF consumption will boost the European SAF industry”, the associations said in a joint statement.
While welcoming the vote, the associations also highlighted that further incentives are needed to scale up SAF production and uptake in Europe, through their inclusion into the EU Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) as part of the strategic net-zero technologies, mirroring the US approach in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
The new rules are still subject to approval by the Council of the European Union. Once the Council approves them, the law will enter into force on 1 January 2024, with some provisions applying as of 1 January 2025.