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The International Air transport Association (IATA) is calling on the EU to develop a regulatory framework to encourage more production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). However, the airline group is not in favor for any government body—including the European Commission—imposing a mandate on airlines to blend lower-carbon SAF with fossil jet-A.
“Our hub feed and de-feed is in Europe, and the feed and de-feed of our competitors takes place outside Europe,” IATA chairman and Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told AIN. "If you add costs, you have to make sure you get compensated, otherwise you further disadvantage European airlines and jobs. We have seen the same issue with the EU emissions trading system."
Some European countries have already revealed plans requiring airlines to uplift a gradually increasing share of renewable and low-emission fuels, and Brussels is likely to follow the trend. The new EU commission of president-elect Ursula von der Leyen should consider introducing a blending mandate in Europe and globally “to push the uptake of SAFs, including synthetic liquid fuels,” Filip Cornelis, director for aviation at the commission’s transport department, stated in an address to the IATA Wings of Change Europe conference in Berlin earlier this week. The share of SAF is “negligible” owing to “challenges” with production and distribution, he said, adding that a legal framework can help accelerate the production and deployment of SAFs.
While rejecting regulation imposing a blending quota, IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac stressed the need for positive policy instruments to scale up the production of SAF and to facilitate consumption. “Whatever help, [in] research, or subsidies, is welcome,” he said. Sustainable fuels offer the opportunity to cut carbon emissions by up to 80 percent, but “SAF production is too low right now and it is too costly.” He acknowledged countries in Europe are taking different pathways on aviation’s energy transition, but he assessed this divergence as irrelevant. Germany for instance favors power-to-liquids (PtL), which Spohr described as the “only real scalable SAF” in the midterm. Production facilities being developed in Amsterdam and the UK, backed by KLM and British Airways respectively, will primarily use regional and household waste as feedstock.
“There are various possibilities to develop SAF. In IATA we have no theoretical or scientific preference for one SAF over the other, but they must be sustainable,” said de Juniac. IATA and the Air Transport Aviation Group believe that if all options to increase SAF production are explored and with appropriate policy support, penetration should be approaching 2 percent, about 7 billion liters (1.85 billion gallons). SAFs currently account for 0.01 percent of global jet fuel use.