Shake-Up Of European Environmental Laws Sparks Aviation Debate

Credit: Joe Pries

In light of impending new European legislation covering emissions trading, renewable energy targets and CO2 limits, aviation industry players have demanded lawmakers set ambitious sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) targets.

They also called for lawmakers to avoid a situation in which aviation is taxed twice for its carbon emissions.   

The European Commission (EC) is set to present the Fit for 55 package July 14, with the goal of reducing EU emissions by 55% by 2030 through changes to energy, transport and climate legislation. The package is part of the broader European Green Deal which aims for carbon neutrality by 2050.  

The package will include the SAF-focused “ReFuel EU,” changes to the Energy Taxation Directive, and revision of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).  

European airlines say revision of the Energy Taxation Directive, in particular the possibility of a Europe-wide aviation fuel tax, could lead to a competitive distortion within Europe’s internal market and worldwide. The airlines have also warned that the proposal could lead to duplication of taxation, with aviation already paying for the CO2 they emit under the EU’s ETS.  

Airlines For Europe (A4E)—the European industry group whose members include Lufthansa, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, International Airlines Group (IAG), EasyJet and Finnair—argues that market-based measures, such as the ETS are key to reducing CO2 emissions, especially in the next 10-15 years. After that point, advances in areas such as SAF or new engine technologies will take on a greater emissions-reduction role. The group is urging governments to invest findings from ETS aviation allowances into decarbonization technologies research. 

“Imposing taxes without reinvesting their revenues in decarbonization will not lower CO2 emissions from flying,” A4E said. “It will rather hamper connectivity without effectively contributing to aviation’s sustainable transformation, depriving airlines from financial resources that could better be used for green investments.”  

A4E insisted there should be no double pricing of CO2 under various economic measures such as ETS/CORSIA. “Doing so would be economically counterproductive and legally inefficient,” A4E said. “If airlines pay for their CO2 under the EU ETS and CORSIA, they should not have to do it under a reviewed Energy Taxation Directive.” 

Focusing on the ReFuelEU part of the package, which is expected to include another long-awaited element of the legislation—a mandate for airlines’ use of SAF—some industry players have also called for ambitious targets on e-kerosene. 

In a June 30 letter, signatories including transport-focused environmental lobby group Transport & Environment, Global Alliance Powerfuels, Lufthansa Group, Schiphol Group, Copenhagen Airport and several SAF players called on the EC to set ambitious targets for the green synthetic fuel as part of the SAF legislation.  

The signatories proposed a 0.5-%-1.0% target for use of e-kerosene from green hydrogen delivered to the EU market in 2027, rising to 2.5% in 2030, as long as such targets are sustainable. 

“We look forward to the upcoming ReFuelEU proposal, which, if designed right, will bring about the development of SAFs,” they wrote. “Key to this success will be early and strong support for e-kerosene, which is a key pathway to scale up the supply of SAFs.” The signatories said mandates beginning “only” in 2030 would delay initiatives in Europe to build synthetic kerosene facilities.  

The EC’s package of proposed reforms will be just a starting point, with debates to follow within individual member states’ governments and the European Parliament before any changes are formally adopted.  


Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.