EU agrees landmark SAF deal

The European Union has agreed a ground-breaking deal to set binding targets for airlines across the continent to increase their use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

The new rules will require aviation fuel suppliers to supply a minimum share of SAF at EU airports, starting at 2% of overall fuel supplied by 2025 and reaching 70% by 2050. The new EU jet fuel blend will need to also contain a minimum share of the most modern and environmentally-friendly synthetic fuels, which increases over time.

Aircraft operators departing from EU airports will also need to refuel only with  he fuel necessary for the flight, to avoid emissions related to extra weight or carbon leakage caused by ‘tankering’ practices (deliberately carrying excess fuel to avoid refuelling with SAF).

Airports need to ensure that their fuelling infrastructure is available and fit for SAF distribution.

The blending mandate covers biofuels, recycled carbon fuels and synthetic aviation fuels (e-fuels) in line with the Renewable Energy Directive, but excludes food and feed crops, supporting sustainability objectives. 

Since it will apply throughout the EU, the body claimed that the new mandate will ensure a level playing field within the EU internal market, provide legal certainty to fuel producers and help kick-start large-scale production across the continent. 

It added that it will also increase the EU’s energy security by reducing dependencies on third-country sourced energy products and create thousands of new jobs in the energy sector. The EU’s airlines will have access to increasing amounts of sustainable aviation fuel throughout the EU.

The political agreement now requires formal adoption by the Parliament and the Council. Once this process is completed, the new legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force with immediate effect.

Aviation emissions in Europe increased an average of 5% year-on-year between 2013 and  2019. While dropping dramatically during the pandemic, aviation emissions are still projected to grow further. The increased climate ambition of the aviation sector will be crucial for the EU to reach its climate objectives under the Paris Agreement and make the European Green Deal a reality.

To achieve climate neutrality, the EU needs to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels

“The EU is setting all sectors on a pathway to climate neutrality, with the measures necessary to meet our 2030 and 2050 climate targets,” said Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal.

“We have now taken another important step towards reducing emissions in the aviation sector. Fuel suppliers at EU airports must provide an increasing share of sustainable aviation fuels and aircraft operators increase their use. The EU is ready for take-off towards a more sustainable future for aviation.”

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport added: “This political agreement is a turning point for European aviation, putting it on a solid pathway towards decarbonisation. Shifting to sustainable aviation fuels will improve our energy security, while reducing reliance on fossil fuel imports. These kinds of measures help make Europe a front-runner in the production of innovative clean fuels, globally. We estimate that the SAF market will create more than 200,000 additional jobs in the EU, mainly in the renewables sector.” 

The new rules will require aviation fuel suppliers to supply a minimum share of SAF at EU airports, starting at 2% of overall fuel supplied by 2025 and reaching 70% by 2050