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The European Commission (EC) has announced that a political agreement has been reached on the REFuelEU Aviation proposal, which creates a mandate requiring the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Once in place, the new rules will help decarbonise the aviation sector by requiring fuel suppliers to blend SAF with kerosene in increasing amounts from 2025, according to a statement on the European Union (EU)’s official website on 26 April.

The new rules will require aviation fuel suppliers to supply a minimum share of SAF at European airports, starting at 2% of overall fuel supply by 2025, and increasing to 70% by 2050.

In addition, the new EU jet fuel blend will need to contain a minimum share of the most modern and environmentally-friendly synthetic fuels, with the volume increasing over time.

The blending mandate covers biofuels, recycled carbon fuels and synthetic aviation fuels (e-fuels) in line with the Renewable Energy Directive.

However, fuels made from food and feed crops are excluded from the mandate.

In addition to the SAF mandate, the agreement also requires aircraft operators departing from EU airports to refuel only with fuel necessary for the flight, to avoid emissions related to extra weight or carbon leakage caused by “tankering” practices of deliberately carrying excess fuel to avoid refuelling with SAF. The agreement also requires airports to ensure their fuelling infrastructure is available and fit for SAF distribution.

The agreement was expected to reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft by approximately two-thirds by 2050 and would also provide climate and air quality benefits by reducing other types of emissions, the statement said.

“This political agreement is a turning point for European aviation, putting it on a solid pathway towards decarbonisation. Shifting to sustainable aviation fuels will improve our energy security, while reducing reliance on fossil fuel imports,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said on 25 April.

Once formally adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council, the new legislation would be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and take immediate effect.

Aviation emissions in Europe increased 5% year-on-year on average between 2013 and 2019. While dropping dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation emissions are projected to rise further.