EU Commission surrenders to United Nations’ ICAO on aviation biofuels

The European Commission and EU member states look set to agree to almost entirely remove sustainability criteria for bio jet fuel at the UN’s aviation agency (ICAO) Council meeting today in Montreal. The countries gathered at the ICAO meeting will trash ten sustainability points out of 12, which will mean that highly unsustainable biofuels would qualify for the aviation’s global carbon offsetting scheme dubbed CORSIA.

These sustainability rules have implications beyond CORSIA because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector. After already agreeing yesterday, the vote today removes sustainability safeguards such as rules on land rights, food security, labour rights and biodiversity protection. According to our sources, the two surviving rules are: a -10% greenhouse gas reduction target for biofuels compared to regular jet fuel and a ban on crops grown on land that was deforested after 2009. Removing these safeguards pitches one UN agency against the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 states.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, analysis and climate manager at Transport & Environment (T&E), said: "If this extreme weakening of the sustainability criteria for biofuels is confirmed later today in Montreal, the European Commission will have effectively surrendered to ICAO, showing how little it cares about human rights or biodiversity. Due to the scale of the global aviation industry, allowing highly unsustainable biofuels in airlines poses a real threat to the most vulnerable peoples and habitats in the world. What’s more, the planned ICAO rules run completely counter to Europe’s own plans for biofuels.”

Back in September the CAEP, the environment body of ICAO, approved an ambitious sustainability framework for sustainable aviation fuels that included 12 environmental and social safeguards. The EU and its member states in the ICAO Council were outmanoeuvred by Brazil and the US Trump administration that successfully pushed to trash the  robust safeguards that were initially proposed. Representatives from France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Germany supported the European Commission’s transport department giving in to ICAO’s pressure and neutralise opposition from the Netherlands and the UK.

Carlos Calvo Ambel added: ”Commissioner Bulc has professed her support for advanced and sustainable bio jet fuel as key to decarbonise aviation. However, when it comes to defending obligatory sustainability criteria that experts, in particular European ones, helped develop for years, Bulc’s staff immediately caved in and allowed Brazil to emasculate the sustainability standards. This whole episode provides yet another warning that ICAO’s flagship initiative to decarbonise aviation, CORSIA, is a complete shambles. The EU should fix this mess or withdraw from the agreement altogether.”
 


Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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