FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The European Union has agreed a deal to set binding targets for airlines in Europe to increase their use of sustainable aviation fuels, in an attempt to kickstart a market for green fuels and cut the aviation sector’s carbon footprint.

After late-night talks, negotiators from the European Parliament and EU member states struck the deal just before midnight on Tuesday.

The proposal aims to increase both demand for and supply of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which have net-zero CO2 emissions or low carbon emissions. For now, these fuels are produced in tiny quantities, and are still far more expensive than conventional CO2-emitting fossil kerosene.

The proposal sets binding targets for aviation fuel suppliers to ensure that all fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports contains a minimum share of SAFs from 2025, with the target increasing to 2050.

At least 2% of aviation fuels must be SAF in 2025, rising to 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035 and increasing very five years to hit 70% in 2050.

From 2030, binding targets will also apply to use a minimum share of synthetic fuels – 1.2% for 2030, rising to 35% in 2050. Synthetic fuels are made using captured CO2 emissions. Proponents says this balances out the CO2 released when the fuel is combusted in an engine.

Aviation is seen as one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise, with zero-emission aircraft not expected for over a decade. In the nearer term, sustainable fuel is one of the few options to reduce air travel’s carbon footprint.

Airlines are set to receive around 2 billion euros in funding from the EU carbon market to help them switch to SAF.

Biofuels can count towards the main SAF targets, so long as they comply with the EU’s biomass sustainability criteria. Low-carbon hydrogen produced from nuclear power is also eligible – a win for countries like France with large shares of atomic power.

EU countries and the EU Parliament must now each approve the deal, before it can pass into law. That process is usually a formality that approves pre-agreed deals with no changes.


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