European Union Boosts Green Fuels for Aviation

By 2050, 70 percent of fuels at E.U. airports will have to be sustainable.

Photograph by rustamank for Adobe Stock
Photograph by rustamank for Adobe Stock

On Wednesday E.U. lawmakers approved new rules requiring airlines to use more sustainable fuels across the bloc in a bid to help decarbonize the sector.

Under the new standards adopted during a European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, France, 2 percent of jet fuel must be sustainable as of 2025, with this share increasing every five years to reach 70 percent by 2050.

The Parliament said that sustainable fuels will include "synthetic fuels, certain biofuels produced from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, biowaste, used cooking oil, or certain animal fats." Recycled jet fuels produced from waste gases and waste plastic, as well as renewable hydrogen, will be considered green, while food-crop-based fuels and fuels derived from palm and soy materials won't.

The aviation sector accounts for 13.9 percent of transportation emissions in the European Union, making it the second-biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the sector after road transport, the European Commission said. If global aviation were a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.

The legislation is part of the E.U.'s "Fit for 55" package, which sets a goal of cutting emissions of the gases that cause global warming by at least 55 percent by 2030. The E.U. also has set a goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. It says it needs to cut transport emissions by 90 percent compared with 1990 levels to achieve this.

The new rules were adopted by 518 votes in favor, 97 votes against and eight abstentions. Once endorsed by E.U. member countries, the rules will enter into force as of January 2024.

The European Commission said earlier this year that the move is expected to reduce aircraft carbon emissions by two-thirds by 2050 compared with "a 'no action' scenario." However, stocks of sustainable aviation fuel remain low. The E.U. Aviation Safety Agency says supply accounts for less than 0.05 percent of total E.U. aviation fuel use.

Aviation also faces competition from other sectors. On Sept. 5, the head of the German airline Lufthansa warned automakers to keep their hands off synthetic aviation fuels. Carsten Spohr, the airline's CEO, said sustainable fuels represented the only workable way to decarbonize aviation, and there wouldn't be enough for the car industry, as well.