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European Union Introduces New Sustainable Fuel Mandates

An ITA Airways Airbus A320 with the new livery at Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport. (Photo: ITA Airways)

The European Union (EU)  — in its mission to decarbonize air travel —  have introduced a new environmentally friendly measure to tackle aviation carbon emissions. This isn’t exactly new across the European Union, they do this all time with new taxes and selective bans targeted towards the aviation industry. What makes this move new and worth mentioning is due to the fact that it’s a departure from the initial punitive measures.

This week, the EU reached a deal that would set binding targets for European airlines to start using more sustainable aviation fuels. The plan is to increase use of sustainable aviation fuels across the Union over the next three decades or so.

2 percent of aviation fuel supplied at European Union airports needs to be comprised of a sustainable aviation fuels by 2025, this grows to 6 percent in 2030, twenty percent in 2035 and all the way up to seventy percent by 2050.

Additionally, from 2030 the deal requires that 1.2 percent of fuels be synthetic. This grows to thirty-five percent in 2050.

This deal now needs to get approval from the EU countries and EU Parliament, but that’s more of a formality than anything. While there isn’t much noise from the country levels, there are some airlines, like Lufthansa, that are making noise over the deal citing increased costs and hurting competition, since the rules only apply to airlines flying from European airports and not to carriers flying into the EU.

However, EU airlines are going to receive around 2 billion euros to help with the transition, so it’s not likely they’re being left to fend for themselves.

Legislative Motivation

This rings different than the typical EU legislation. It’s among the few new legislative moves that are actually forward thinking. The deal that is being put in place is to squarely spur the sustainable aviation fuel industry.

Sustainable fuels are a thing, airlines all over the world are using sustainable fuels in some capacity. However, use is still extremely limited. While investments are growing in the sector there are a lot of barriers to overcome. This legislation from the EU puts on strong legislative pressure to spur the growth of sustainable aviation fuels.

If these goals are followed, then it puts a greater degree of certainty into the growth of sustainable aviation fuels.

The U.S. Approach

The United States Department of Transportation is following a somewhat different path. Instead of legislative fiat, the plan is to introduce a government-wide approach to work with the fuel industry to grow the market share of sustainable aviation fuels with a target to supply 100 percent of projected fuel use by 2050.

There are start ups every day touting some new electric or hydrogen plane concept. They will eventually come to fruition, but a stop gap is needed until technology develops to support it. Sustainable aviation fuels are the only realistic way at the moment to reliably reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry.

Hemal Gosai


  • Hemal Gosai

    Hemal took his first flight at four years old and has been an avgeek since then. When he isn't working as an analyst he's frequently found outside watching planes fly overhead or flying in them. His favorite plane is the 747-8i which Lufthansa thankfully flies to EWR allowing for some great spotting. He firmly believes that the best way to fly between JFK and BOS is via DFW and is always willing to go for that extra elite qualifying mile.

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