COLOGNE, September 14, 2023 – The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is set to be assigned a raft of new responsibilities by European Union (EU) legislators that will further expand its environmental remit, charging the Agency with monitoring the aviation industry’s progress toward carbon-neutrality by 2050 and with making the outcomes transparent for citizens.
The European Parliament voted in favour of the ReFuelEU Aviation, a comprehensive regulation in the context of the European Green Deal, on September 13, 2023. This approval follows a provisional agreement reached in April with the EU Council, which is now expected to adopt the final text.
The regulation will bring a new set of specific tasks for EASA, particularly in the area of promoting and measuring the usage of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) as well as the associated reductions in CO2 emissions. It also charges EASA with developing an environmental labelling scheme for aviation that will provide the travelling public with objective, scientifically-based information on emissions to consider when booking a flight.
‘Sustainable Aviation Fuels are currently the most promising solution to set air transport on a path to decarbonisation and ReFuelEU is a milestone in promoting the uptake of SAF,’ said Luc Tytgat, Acting Executive Director of EASA. ‘This legislation places EASA at the centre of the drive to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions. Assigning this task to EASA also sends the clear message that sustainability cannot come at the expense of safety in aviation. We must become sustainable safely.’
ReFuelEU Aviation sets targets for a minimum percentage of SAF to be used as a blend with jet fuel in air operations from 2025, as a means to steadily reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions. This percentage will be gradually increased to stimulate increased production and uptake of SAF. By 2050, the aim is for 70% of all fuel supplied in EU Airports to be SAF, of which 35% would be synthetic aviation fuels that have a higher potential for reducing CO2 emissions. The scope of the regulation covers at least 95% of total traffic departing from airports in the EU.
To support this, ReFuelEU mandates EASA with the development of an annual report that will provide greater clarity on information such as the origin, quantity and characteristics of SAF purchased by aircraft operators, as well as the state of market including information on the evolution of the price gap between SAF and conventional aviation fuels. The first report is expected around Q4 2025.
As part of this regulation, EASA is also mandated to provide a labelling scheme aiming to disclose emission information to passengers. This will allow citizens to make an informed choice when booking their flights on the basis of more robust, reliable, independent and harmonised information. European airlines can opt-in to provide operational data as a basis for the calculations. This data, including their reported CO2 emissions, will then be verified by EASA. EASA is set to start issuing environmental labels for flights as of January 1, 2025.
Among other measures, the legislation also aims to combat the practice of ‘economic tankering’: that is, when an aircraft operator deliberately carries more fuel than needed for the safe completion of the planned outward journey to avoid paying higher costs for fuel at the destination airport for the return. Tankering makes the aircraft heavier and therefore increases the level of pollution.