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Call for long-haul emissions to be covered by EU’s Sustainable Aviation Fuels mandate

A coalition* of airlines, aviation sector companies and European NGOs have expressed their concern over policy proposals to limit the scope of the European Union’s ReFuel EU Aviation initiative to intra-EEA (European Economic Area) flights. The legislation, to be proposed by the European Commission (EC), is expected to oblige the aviation sector to mix a percentage of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) into kerosene-based fuel.

In a letter sent to EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean, the coalition point out that long-haul operations are the primary source of the sector’s climate impact. According to recent Eurocontrol figures, just 6% of flights, those over 4,000 km in length, create half of aviation’s CO
2 emissions. Eurocontrol concludes: ‘Increasing the supply of sustainable aviation fuel to cover just 10% of the needs of long-haul, would do more than can ever be done in short-haul to reduce net CO2 emissions.’ Moreover, it notes that extra-EEA flights and long-haul hub operations are already excluded from many European environmental policies such as the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

For short-haul flying, SAFs are only an interim step, similar to offsetting, until zero emissions technologies such as hydrogen or electric propulsion aircraft are available by the mid to late-2030s. These new, zero emissions technologies, however, are not available for long-haul aviation in the foreseeable future, therefore SAFs continue to be key for long-haul aviation to mitigate its carbon emissions.

In addition, by potentially raising costs, SAFs could detract from ongoing efforts by technology manufacturers and short-haul carriers to switch to cleaner, zero emissions solutions. The signatories have therefore called on the EC to ensure the SAFs mandate does not delay the development of zero emission propulsion (ie hydrogen or electric). Furthermore, the coalitions says the EC needs to exclude biofuels from dedicated cropland (except cover crops) and ensure that advanced biofuels are sustainable, and mandates for best-in-class fuels, such as synthetic kerosene, to be included.

*The coalition comprises Bond Beter Leefmilieu, easyJet, Jet2, Loganair, Natuur & Milieu, Pipistrel, Ryanair, SkyNRG, Transport & Environment, Wizz Air, Wright Electric.

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