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European aviation braces for sustainable aviation fuel mandate

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One of the key pillars of European aviation's commitment to net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 is a massive increase in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) usage.

According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for only 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU. Without further regulatory/policy intervention, this is projected to increase to only 2.8% by 2050, whereas the net zero target envisages 83%.

An EU initiative, 'ReFuelEU Aviation', will soon produce legislation to stimulate growth in SAF. It is likely to include a mandate on the percentages of SAF to be blended with fossil jet fuel, possibly phased over time, in addition to capacity production incentives.

Europe's airlines stand together in their support of the 2050 net zero target, but the impending EU mandate is revealing some cracks in their unity. They are already divided over the inclusion of long haul, which accounts for as much as 40% of total emissions (perhaps not surprisingly, Europe's leading LCCs want this to happen), and the size and phasing of the SAF percentages may also test them.

Moreover, a supportive policy framework and financial incentives will be crucial to ramping up SAF production to the necessary commercial scale.

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