European Parliament mandates new 2050 SAF targets

Last week, the European Parliament passed legislation within its Fit for 55 package, which mandates that by 2050, all aircraft departing from or arriving at European Union (EU) airports must utilize a minimum of 70% sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). This law, known as the RefuelEU aviation rules, was approved on September 13.

Under the RefuelEU law, commencing in 2025, EU airports and fuel suppliers must ensure that at least 2% of the supplied aviation fuel consists of SAF. This requirement will progressively increase in five-year intervals, reaching 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045, and ultimately 70% by 2050. Furthermore, a specific portion of the fuel mixture, starting at 1.2% in 2030, 2% in 2032, 5% in 2035, and incrementally reaching 35% in 2050, must consist of synthetic fuels such as e-kerosene.

The legislation received support from 518 parliamentarians, while 97 voted against it, and eight abstained. José Ramón Bauzá Díaz, the parliamentary rapporteur, hailed the new law as a “significant stride” toward decarbonizing aviation and urged EU governments to swiftly implement the regulations and support the industry in deploying Sustainable Aviation Fuels across Europe to meet EU targets.

The Air France-KLM Group expressed its appreciation for the European Parliament’s decision, emphasizing its commitment to the use of SAF and the need for a regulatory framework that addresses fair competition concerns to prevent traffic diversion to European hubs outside the EU not subject to these regulations, as well as carbon leakage.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair also welcomed the adoption of SAF mandates, endorsing the “polluter pays” principle. Ryanair aims to achieve 12.5% SAF usage by 2030 but highlighted the challenges related to SAF production, including limited feedstock availability, pricing competitiveness, and a lengthy certification process.

The new law defines SAFs as including synthetic fuels, certain biofuels derived from residues like agricultural or forestry waste, algae, bio-waste, used cooking oil, or specific animal fats. Hydrogen and fuel produced from used cooking oil are also considered SAFs. However, the law excludes SAFs derived from feed and food crops, as well as those from palm and soy materials.

Pending approval by the European Council, these new rules will take effect on January 1, 2024, with certain provisions becoming operational on January 1, 2025.


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