[Adopted] The Decarbonisation of Aviation: An Insight into the ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative

In an effort to combat climate change and reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector, The European Union (EU) has unveiled a new law known as the ‘ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative’. This law is a pivotal component of the EU’s broader ‘Fit for 55’ package, envisioned to align the aviation sector with the EU’s climate targets for 2030 and 2050.

The Significance of the ReFuelEU Aviation Law

The ReFuelEU Aviation law holds profound implications for the future of sustainable air transport in the EU. It sets in stone a clear pathway for aircraft operators and fuel suppliers in Europe, thereby promoting the extensive production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). The law is a testament to the EU’s commitment to greening the aviation sector and reaching its climate targets on both European and global levels.


The Aims of the Legislation

The ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative has been designed with a dual aim – to boost both the demand and the supply of SAFs. These fuels, offering lower CO2 emissions than their fossil fuel counterparts, are a viable solution to decarbonise the aviation sector. However, their potential has been underutilised due to a lack of supply and relatively high prices. The new legislation seeks to rectify this by creating an environment conducive to the growth and development of SAFs.

The Provisions of the Law

The ReFuelEU Aviation law includes several key provisions:

  1. Aviation fuel suppliers will be bound by law to include a certain percentage of SAFs in the fuel provided to aircraft operators at EU airports. This minimum share will rise incrementally from 2025, starting at 2% and reaching 70% by 2050. Additionally, from 2030 onwards, a minimum share of synthetic fuels will also be required, starting at 1.2% and increasing to 35% by 2050.

  2. Aircraft operators will be required to ensure that at least 90% of the yearly aviation fuel uplifted at each EU airport aligns with their yearly fuel needs. This will help deter ‘tankering’ practices, which contribute to additional emissions due to the extra weight carried.

  3. A wide range of fuels will qualify as eligible SAFs, including certified biofuels, renewable fuels of non-biological origin, and recycled carbon aviation fuels. These fuels must comply with the Renewable Energy Directive’s sustainability and emissions saving criteria. Low-carbon aviation fuels, including low-carbon hydrogen, can also be used to meet the minimum shares stipulated by the regulation.

  4. Member states will designate competent authorities to enforce the regulation and impose fines for non-compliance.

  5. A Union labelling scheme will be created to help consumers make informed choices and promote greener flights.

  6. Fuel suppliers and aircraft operators will have data collection and reporting responsibilities. These will enable the monitoring of the regulation’s effects on the competitiveness of EU operators and platforms.

The Road Ahead

Following its formal adoption by the Council, the new regulation will be published in the EU’s official journal. It will take effect twenty days after publication and will be enforced from 1st January 2024. However, certain articles will only apply from 1st January 2025.

The Bigger Picture

The ReFuelEU Aviation initiative is a component of the ‘Fit for 55’ package. Introduced by the European Commission, the package aims to reduce the EU’s net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. On 2nd June 2022, the Transport Council approved the proposal. Following negotiations with the European Parliament, a provisional political agreement was reached on 25th April 2023.