In a significant step towards achieving its climate goals, the European Union (EU) Council has adopted a new regulation aimed at decarbonizing the aviation sector. The RefuelEUAviation initiative, which is part of the EU's broader 'Fit for 55' package, will introduce a series of measures to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry.
A mandate for aviation fuel suppliers to ensure that all fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports contains a minimum share of SAF from 2025 onwards. A progressive increase in the SAF blending mandate, reaching 2% in 2025, 6% in 2030, and 70% in 2050. The introduction of a sub-mandate for synthetic fuels, with a requirement for a minimum share of 1.2% from 2030, rising to 35% in 2050. The RefuelEU Aviation initiative is expected to have a significant impact on the aviation sector, driving the development and production of SAFs and reducing the industry's carbon footprint. The regulation is also expected to create new jobs and economic opportunities in the EU. The aviation industry has welcomed the new regulation, recognizing the need to take action to address aviation's contribution to climate change. Airlines have pledged to work with fuel suppliers to meet the SAF blending mandates and are investing in the development of new SAF technologies.
At the heart of the RefuelEU Aviation initiative lies a comprehensive approach to reducing aviation emissions, encompassing a range of measures designed to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and foster technological advancements. The regulation introduces a progressive SAF blending mandate, requiring aviation fuel suppliers to ensure that a minimum proportion of fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports contains SAF. This mandate will steadily increase from 2% in 2025 to an ambitious 70% by 2050, effectively phasing out conventional fossil-based aviation fuel. The RefuelEU Aviation initiative is not merely a regulatory framework; it serves as a catalyst for innovation and sustainable growth within the aviation industry. By creating a strong demand signal for SAFs, the regulation will stimulate investment in research and development, driving the commercialization of new SAF production technologies and accelerating the transition to a cleaner aviation future. The RefuelEU Aviation initiative was adopted by the EU Council on 9 October 2023 and signed on 18 October 2023. It is expected to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union in the coming weeks and will enter into force 20 days after publication.
1 January 2024: The regulation will officially come into force.
1 January 2025: Articles 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 will become applicable. These articles cover key provisions such as, the SAF blending mandate, requiring a minimum share of 2% SAF in aviation fuel supplied at EU airports.
The aviation industry's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is undeniable, accounting for approximately 2.5% of total emissions. As air travel continues to grow, so does its impact on the environment. In 2019, the aviation industry emitted 915 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), a figure that is expected to reach 2.5 billion tonnes by 2050 if no action is taken.Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) are the key to decarbonizing aviation. SAFs are fuels derived from renewable sources, such as biomass or waste materials, and they have the potential to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional fossil-based fuels.
All 27 EU member states are required to adhere to the RefuelEU Aviation initiative. This means that all aviation fuel suppliers in the EU will be required to blend a minimum proportion of SAF into conventional aviation fuel, starting at 2% in 2025 and increasing to 70% by 2050. In addition to the EU member states, a number of other countries have also expressed their intention to adhere to the RefuelEU Aviation initiative including Canada, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom. The RefuelEU Aviation initiative has been criticized by some for being too ambitious. They argue that the SAF blending mandates are too high and that the cost of SAFs is too high to make the initiative feasible.
Others have criticized the initiative for not going far enough. They argue that the SAF blending mandates should be even higher and that the EU should also invest in other measures to reduce aviation emissions, such as the development of new aircraft technologies.
Furthermore, the initiative is expected to generate significant economic opportunities, creating new jobs in the production, distribution, and utilization of SAFs. As the aviation industry embraces sustainability, it will not only contribute to environmental protection but also foster economic growth and diversification. The EU Council's adoption of the RefuelEUAviation initiative marks a turning point in the aviation industry's trajectory towards decarbonization. By establishing ambitious targets for SAF blending and synthetic fuel production, the regulation sets a clear path for a sustainable aviation future. This groundbreaking legislation is not only a testament to the EU's commitment to climate action but also a catalyst for innovation and economic growth, paving the way for a cleaner, more sustainable aviation industry that benefits both the planet and its stakeholders.