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EU Council adopts ReFuelEU Aviation initiative

EU Council adopts ReFuelEU Aviation initiative
The Council of the European Union (European Council) has adopted the so-called ‘ReFuelEU Aviation’ initiative.

More renewable and low-carbon fuels will reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector and create a level playing field for sustainable air transport in the EU following the adoption on October 9, 2023, of a new regulation by the Council of the European Union (European Council) on the so-called ‘ReFuelEU Aviation’ initiative.

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Part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package presented by the European Commission in July 2021, the ReFuelEU Aviation initiative aims to enable the EU to reduce its net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to achieve climate neutrality in 2050.

On June 2, 2022, the Transport Council reached a general approach to the proposal. Following interinstitutional negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament (trilogues), the two co-legislators reached a provisional political agreement on the file in April 2023.

Reduce emissions and level the EU playing field

As a key part of the EU’s Fit for 55 package, the main objective of the RefuelEU Aviation initiative is to increase both demand for and supply of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which have lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than fossil fuel kerosene, while ensuring a level playing field across the EU air transport market.

The new legislation aims to put air transport on the trajectory of the EU’s climate targets for 2030 and 2050, as SAF is one of the key short- and medium-term tools for decarbonizing aviation.

The regulation should address the current situation that is hindering their development: low supply and prices much higher than prices of fossil fuels.

The new law will provide legal certainty to aircraft operators and fuel suppliers in Europe. Kick-starting the large-scale production of sustainable aviation fuels will soon make the EU’s aviation sector much greener. This is a key step in our broader effort to reach our climate targets at the European and global level, said Raquel Sánchez Jiménez, Spanish acting minister of transport, mobility, and urban agenda.

The new regulation contains the following main provisions:

  1. The obligation 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, and, from 2030, a minimum share of synthetic fuels, with both shares increasing progressively until 2050. Fuel suppliers will have to incorporate 2 percent SAF in 2025, 6 percent in 2030, and 70 percent in 2050. From 2030, 1.2 percent of fuels must also be synthetic fuels, rising to 35 percent in 2050.
  2. The obligation for aircraft operators to ensure that the yearly quantity of aviation fuel uplifted at a given EU airport is at least 90 percent of the yearly aviation fuel required, to avoid tankering practices which would bring additional emissions from extra weight.
  3. The scope of eligible SAF and synthetic aviation fuels includes certified biofuels, renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO), including renewable hydrogen, and recycled carbon aviation fuels complying with the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) sustainability and emissions saving criteria, up to a maximum of 70 percent with the exception of biofuels from food and feed crops, as well as low-carbon aviation fuels (including low-carbon hydrogen), which can be used to reach the minimum shares in the respective part of the regulation.
  4. Rules on the competent authorities, to be designated by the Member States to enforce this regulation, and rules on fines.
  5. The creation of a Union labeling scheme about environmental performance for aircraft operators using SAF will help consumers make informed choices and will promote greener flights.
  6. Data collection and reporting obligations for fuel suppliers and aircraft operators enable to monitor the effects of this regulation on the competitiveness of EU operators and platforms.

The regulation will enter into force 20 days after publication in the EU’s Official Journal and shall apply from January 1, 2024, while articles 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 shall apply from January 1, 2025.

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