Matteo Mirolo, aviation manager at T&E, said: “This pioneering deal is an unwavering endorsement of the world’s largest green fuel mandate for aviation. The EU doubled down on synthetic fuels, which are key to decarbonising the sector, and limited the use of unsustainable biofuels in planes.”
The green fuels law for aviation – known as ReFuelEU – stipulates that, from 2025, all flights departing from an EU airport will be obliged to uplift a minimum share of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), starting at 2% in 2025. In 2030, the percentage will rise to 6%, and gradually to 70% by 2050.
These targets will include requirements for synthetic fuels (e-kerosene), which are the only type of SAFs that can sustainably be scaled up to meet the fuel demands of the sector. Negotiators agreed to a 1.2% synthetic fuel mandate between 2030 and 2031 and 2% between 2032 and 2035. This is a stark increase from the original European Commission proposal (0.7% between 2030 and 2035) and a major win for the European Parliament.
Negotiators also agreed on the definition of what constitutes a sustainable biofuel for aviation. They excluded some of the most controversial biofuel feedstocks such as food crops and palm oil by-products (PFADs). But they kept some other problematic feedstocks that are neither sustainable nor scalable.
Fuel suppliers will be able to meet targets with animal fats and used cooking oil (UCO), both of which are limited in supply. Animal fats are by-products of the animal slaughter process. Their inclusion risks creating shortages in other industries that already use them, like the pet food industry. Palm oil is very often the chosen substitute for animal fats. Negotiators have not set a cap on the use of UCO, which could lead to demand from European aviation outstripping what the continent can sustainably provide, leaving it reliant on imports and increasing the risk of fraud.
In a historic amendment, non-CO₂ effects of aviation made it into the final agreement. Non-CO₂ emissions account for two thirds of aviation’s climate impact, but efforts to legislate them in the past were unsuccessful. Today, ReFuelEU opens the door to regulating the quality of the fuel to ensure it has lower aromatic concentrations and sulfur content. This is a significant step to reduce the non-CO2 climate impacts in aviation, but also to improve air quality around airports, T&E says.
Matteo Mirolo concluded: “This deal and the latest provision on SAF allowances agreed upon last week in the carbon market (EU ETS) provide airlines with the certainty that synthetic kerosene will become cheaper and widely available. The ramp-up of SAFs can now start, but there is more work to be done. Ensuring the success of SAFs will require industrial support policies for synthetic kerosene but also stronger safeguards to ensure that no unsustainable biofuels creep into airplane tanks.»