Europe Takes a Bold Step Towards Sustainable Aviation: The ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation

The European Union (EU) has taken a significant stride towards achieving its ambitious climate goals with the adoption of the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation. This landmark legislation is part of the EU’s broader plan, known as the Fit for 55 package, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and ensure climate neutrality by 2050. The ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation focuses on promoting the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) to cut emissions in the aviation sector.

Aiming for a Sustainable Future: The Ambitious Timeline

To expedite the transition to sustainable aviation, the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation sets forth a comprehensive timeline. Starting from 2025, EU airports and fuel suppliers will be obligated to ensure that at least 2% of aviation fuels are green. This percentage will increase every five years, reaching 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045, and an impressive 70% in 2050. Additionally, a specific proportion of the fuel mix must comprise synthetic fuels like e-kerosene, gradually increasing from 1.2% in 2030 to 35% in 2050.

Defining Green: The Scope of Sustainable Aviation Fuels

The ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation expands the definition of ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ to encompass a range of environmentally friendly alternatives. These include synthetic fuels, certain biofuels derived from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, bio-waste, used cooking oil, certain animal fats, and even recycled jet fuels produced from waste gases and waste plastic. However, the regulation explicitly excludes feed and food crop-based fuels, as well as fuels derived from palm and soy materials, due to their failure to meet sustainability criteria. Furthermore, renewable hydrogen has been recognized as a promising technology that can contribute to the decarbonization of air transport.

Empowering Passengers: The New Flight Label

In a bid to encourage decarbonization within the aviation sector and promote transparency, the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation introduces a new flight label. Starting from 2025, airlines will be required to display an EU label indicating the expected carbon footprint per passenger and the anticipated CO2 efficiency per kilometer. This label will enable passengers to compare the environmental performance of flights operated by different companies on the same route, empowering them to make informed choices.

According to Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz, the rapporteur for the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation, “This is a tremendous step towards the decarbonization of aviation. It is now time for EU governments to implement the new rules and support the industry to ensure the cost-effective deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuels across Europe as well as meeting EU targets. There is no time to lose. In a complex and competitive world, I fully believe that ReFuelEU is a great opportunity to position the European Union as a global leader in the production and use of SAF.”

Charting the Path Forward: Next Steps and Implementation

The ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation was adopted with overwhelming support, receiving 518 votes in favor, 97 votes against, and eight abstentions. Following approval by the Council, the new rules will come into effect on January 1, 2024, with certain provisions taking effect from January 1, 2025. This decisive action sets Europe on a determined path towards achieving its climate goals and reinforces its commitment to sustainable aviation practices.

Conclusion: Europe’s Growing Commitment to a Sustainable Aviation Future

Europe’s adoption of the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation underscores its unwavering commitment to a sustainable aviation future. By setting ambitious blending shares of Sustainable Aviation Fuels and promoting transparency through flight labeling, Europe is leading the way in reducing the environmental impact of air travel. As the implementation of these regulations takes effect, Europe aims to position itself as a global leader in the production and use of SAF, driving meaningful change in the aviation industry and paving the way for a greener future for all.