Airline and green NGO urge MEPs to exclude palm oil by-products from European aviation

July 6, 2022

MEPs must maintain robust control of what is considered a green aviation fuel on the Europe market in a crucial vote on Thursday.

easyJet and green group Transport & Environment are appealing to the EU to ensure all green fuels used for aviation are sustainable, with no links to deforestation and food price increases. In a joint letter, the two groups warn that the EU’s definition of sustainable aviation fuels should not include controversial biofuel feedstocks, including palm oil derivatives and animal fats (category 3). Planes refueling in Europe should instead fly with synthetic fuels, green hydrogen, renewable electricity and only biofuels from true wastes and residues to reduce aviation’s emissions.

Thomas Haagensen, Group Markets & Marketing Director at easyJet, says: “The SAFs we use in our planes must be sustainable. We ask MEPs to stick to the strict EU Commission criteria for biofuel feedstocks, to ensure there are no links to deforestation or competing uses with other industries.” 

The letter comes as MEPs of the Transport Committee (TRAN) put forward a proposal that expanded the definition of green fuels to include problematic feedstocks. This proposal will now be voted on by the EU Parliament on 7 July. 

The expanded definition opens the door to feedstocks which have competing uses, creating shortages in industries that already use them. 

The proposal would also see Palm Fatty Acid Distillates (PFAD), a by-product of the palm oil refining process, enter the European aviation market. PFADs are already used in other industries, including soap-making, livestock feed, and, in rare cases, combustion for energy. When they are diverted from these existing uses, they are replaced with virgin palm. Palm oil has disastrous impacts on global land use change and emissions.

The other controversial feedstock is category 3 animal fats. They are fit for use in food and feed and to make soaps and cosmetics. If used for other purposes such as aviation fuels, palm oil – being the cheapest alternative – would  be the most likely substitute for their current uses. 

Jo Dardenne, Aviation Director at T&E, explained: “We are about to open the door to harmful biofuels, first and foremost PFAD. All of these lead us back to palm oil, deforestation and increasing food prices. If we let this happen, this will be harmful for our planet and the credibility of sustainable aviation fuels. Let’s not create a loophole for the type of biofuels that we are successfully phasing out elsewhere in Europe.” 

easyJet and T&E call upon MEPs to return to the European Commission’s definition of sustainable fuels, which prioritizes advanced biofuels and synthetic kerosene. They also call upon MEPs to enable green hydrogen and renewable electricity to be counted under the SAF mandate.  

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