Aviation alliance seeks changes to EU sustainable fuel proposals

An aviation sector alliance has called for changes to the European Union’s planned climate change legislation, arguing it will make them less competitive compared to non-European rivals.

Examining aviation, a sector deemed responsible for up to 3% of global emissions, the European Union presented plans last July that foresee stricter rules on CO2 emissions and the use of synthetic fuel blends, as well as the implementation of a kerosene tax.

Under the plans, jet fuel would be taxed in line with other transport sectors, following a phased introduction over 10 years to allow the aviation sector to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

A separate proposal would force suppliers to blend a minimum of 2% of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) into their kerosene from 2025, rising to 5% in 2030 and 63% in 2050.

SAF includes bio-based fuels obtained from recycled waste such as used cooking oil or other non-oil sources and – on a much smaller scale so far – hydrogen-based synthetic or e-fuels.

A portion of the total binding target for SAF – 0.7% in 2030 rising to 28% in 2050 – would be reserved for the novel e-fuels, which are currently scarce and costly compared to kerosene.

Parallel restrictions would limit a practice that allows airlines to fly in cheaper fuel from elsewhere for the return trip – a process known as ‘tankering’ – meaning the new SAF quota on suppliers would more easily translate into use by airlines.

The aviation alliance, whose nearly 20 members include all Lufthansa subsidiaries, Air France-KLM and major airports such as Frankfurt and Amsterdam’s Schipol, argues long-haul flights via non-European hubs would not be subjected to the same associated costs, leading to a potential shift in business to such carriers.

The alliance rejects a kerosene tax outright and proposes that the environmental protection surcharge be based on the entire flight route, not just feeder flights bringing passengers from the EU to international hubs such as Istanbul or Dubai.

In principle, the alliance is however in favour of the EU’s “Fit for 55” climate package, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

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