ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative: final compromise text made available

Following the endorsement of the text by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER I) on 16 June, the final compromise text on the proposal has been made available.

On the scope, the Parliament obtained the extension of the scope regarding Union airports and aircraft operators as well as a clause for commercial and non-commercial airports and aircraft operators still not covered by the Regulation.

As regards definitions, co-legislators agreed that ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ (‘SAF’) would include specific biofuels produced from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, bio-waste, used cooking oil or certain animal fats, as well as recycled jet fuels produced from waste gases and waste plastic. However, fuels made from palm and soy feedstocks would be excluded.

The provisional agreement also introduces the definitions of ‘low-carbon hydrogen for aviation’, ‘synthetic low-carbon aviation fuels’, ‘low-carbon hydrogen for aviation’, ‘renewable hydrogen for aviation’, ‘hydrogen for aviation’ and ‘low-carbon aviation fuels’.

Moreover, the co-legislators agreed on stricter obligations for fuel suppliers to ensure that all fuel made available at EU airports contains a minimum share of SAF from 2025 and a minimum share of synthetic fuels from 2030.

Both shares would increase progressively until 2050, as follows:
(i) All fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports would have to contain a minimum of 2% of SAF in 2025, 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045 and 70% in 2050.
(ii) All fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports would have to contain a minimum of 1,2% of synthetic fuel in 2030, 2% in 2032 and 5% in 2035, rising progressively to 35% in 2050.

Moreover, Article 4 covers renewable hydrogen and synthetic low-carbon aviation fuels to be considered as part of a sustainable fuel mix.

The agreement also introduces some flexibility regarding synthetic aviation fuels, establishing that if an aviation fuel supplier fails to supply the average share of synthetic aviation fuel over the period from 1 January 2030 until 31 December 2031, it should at least complement that shortfall before the end of the period from 1 January 2032 until 31 December 2034.

Similarly, if it fails to supply the average share of synthetic aviation fuel over the period from 1 January 2032 until 31 December 2034, it should at least complement that shortfall in the subsequent reporting period.

With regard to exemptions, the Council has obtained that an aircraft operator may request an exemption from the refueling provisions listed above in the following cases: (a) serious and recurring operational difficulties in fueling aircraft at the Union airport concerned, which prevent them from carrying out rotations within a reasonable period of time, or (b) structural fuel supply difficulties arising from the geographical characteristics of a given Union airport, which lead to a significant increase in fuel prices.

The exemption granted should have a limited period of validity, not exceeding one year, after which it shall be reviewed upon request of the aircraft operator while the Commission will play a greater role in monitoring these exemptions and will be able to take action if they were granted in an unfair manner. The Commission would adopt guidelines on the application of these exemptions by 1 September 2024.

In addition, a new Article 6a was introduced to promote hydrogen and electricity supply at the Union airports.

The agreement reached will also strengthen data collection and reporting obligations for fuel suppliers and aircraft operators to help monitor the impact of the Regulation on the competitiveness of EU operators and hubs and to improve knowledge of the impact of non-CO2 effects of air transport emissions.

In addition, while the Parliament obtained the earmarking of funds provision, the Member States will keep the revenues from non-compliance fines from airlines, airports or fuel suppliers to research and innovation aimed at reducing the price difference between sustainable and conventional fuels.

Finally, pushed by the Parliament, the final compromise text foresees a new Article 12(a) for the creation of a voluntary Union labeling scheme for the environmental performance of flights as of 2025. The system would notably help consumers make informed choices and encourage the use of SAF for airlines.

The Commission would identify and assess the developments of the system and possible improvements by 1 July 2027, with a view to establishing a compulsory environmental labeling scheme.

According to the agreement, by 2027 and every four years thereafter, the Commission will have to review this Regulation and measure its impact on connectivity, carbon leakage, distortions of competition and the future use of hydrogen and electricity.

The Regulation would apply from 1 January 2024 while Articles 4, 5, and 6 would apply from 1 January 2025.

The European Parliament’s Transport & Tourism (TRAN) Committee is due to meet on 27 June to examine and confirm the provisional agreement on the proposal. It will then need to be formally adopted in plenary.