In a meeting held on Monday (6th June), global airlines expressed their concerns and criticisms regarding Europe’s green fuel mandates and its inability to address the persistent air traffic control strikes in France, writes Euractiv.
European regulators have recently implemented a new directive that mandates airlines to adopt Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) as an alternative to conventional jet fuel. SAF is known for its reduced carbon emissions – albeit coming at a higher cost, ranging from 2 to 4 times more expensive than traditional fuel options.
Under the new regulations, fuel suppliers will be obligated to ensure that 2% of the fuel they provide at EU airports consists of SAF by the year 2025. This percentage will then increase to 6% by 2030, 20% by 2035 and will gradually rise to an ambitious goal of 70% by 2050. These measures aim to facilitate a significant transition towards a more environmentally friendly aviation practices across Europe.
“I think it’s fair to portray the EU as being anti-aviation, whereas other parts of the world are very positive, pro-aviation,” International Air Transport Association (IATA) head Willie Walsh said on Monday at the group’s annual meeting.
Officials lambasted Europe for introducing a mandate, arguing that a global approach to increasing SAF production or tax incentives like those introduced by the United States under the Inflation Reduction Act would be more effective.
EU officials have retorted by claiming that they are also helping to support the industry in its green transition through credits and other benefits and that the timelines for the mandates were reasonable.
Every plane departing from an EU airport will have to partially run on green jet fuel from 2025, according to a deal reached by the European Parliament and EU member states late on Tuesday (25 April).
Roadmap to net-zero emissions by 2050
In 2021, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, unveiled a comprehensive strategy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The plan outlined a gradual increase in the utilization of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as part of the broader efforts to reduce the aviation sector’s environmental impact.
During its recent annual meeting, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) emphasized its own roadmap towards achieving the net-zero emissions target. As part of this roadmap, IATA intends to introduce a tracking tool to monitor the quantity of SAF purchased and utilized by airlines.
This tool aims to enhance accountability within the industry by providing insights into the sector’s progress as a whole. Although specific data on individual airlines’ SAF consumption will not be publicly disclosed, the tracking tool will contribute to showcasing the industry’s collective advancements.
Furthermore, industry officials, including IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh, advocated for the establishment of a global system that would enable airlines to purchase SAF on behalf of other carriers, even if they themselves do not directly utilize it as fuel for their own aircraft. This proposal highlights the importance of collaboration and shared responsibility in promoting the adoption of sustainable practices within the aviation sector.
“Just as location makes no difference on the impact of CO2 emissions, it has no impact on where SAF is uplifted and used either. A global approach to book and claim for SAF credits will help facilitate economies of scale in SAF production,” he said.
However, IATA said the EU’s approach could cause more fragmentation by forcing airlines to buy SAF in Europe, ultimately hampering a harmonised global approach and sowing confusion.
“Not only is threatening to make the EU’s [emissions trading scheme] extra-territorial, but several European states also want to tax jet fuel – in defiance of the Chicago Convention and almost every bilateral air service agreement,” Walsh said.
Activists in Europe have also argued that solutions such as sustainable aviation fuel and more efficient engines will not be sufficient in helping the industry reach its targets, with many cheering a French ban on some short-haul routes as a step in the right direction.
“We’ve all lived through COVID, we all saw what happened when we lacked connectivity,” said IATA economist Marie Owen Thomsen, adding that she was “flabbergasted” by such a pessimistic pronouncement by environmental groups.
“If we agree that we need aviation, and we agree that we need to do this sustainably, then our focus should be on getting those solutions (like SAF and efficient engines) as fast as possible.”
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Source: Euractiv.com (2023).