Navigating towards the decarbonisation of European aviation

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Series Details 2021/53, Number 53
Publication Date 2021
ISBN 978-92-9466-109-8
ISSN 2467-4540
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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation was one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, directly accounting for about 3% of the EU’s total emissions and more than 2% of global emissions. Even though the crisis has caused a visible drop in air traffic and aviation emissions, the upward trend in emissions will likely resume unless further measures are taken to ensure that the sector’s growth is compatible with the European Green Deal objectives.

Following the release of the Fit for 55 Package, a number of legislative processes are underway at the EU level to support the aviation sector’s decarbonisation. A key measure in the “Basket of Measures” is increasing the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), which hold significant potential to reduce aircraft emissions. To this end, the European Commission’s recently published ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative seeks to boost the production and uptake of SAFs in the EU, which today account for a mere 0.05% of total jet fuel consumption. Significant efforts will also be needed to develop disruptive technologies to bring zero-emission aircraft to the market.

For this to happen, an enabling EU policy framework will need to be put into place, including through the enactment of adequate carbon pricing policies and research and innovation (R&I). The reduction of the EU Emissions Trading System allowances allocated for free to airlines is another avenue the Commission is pursuing whilst closely coordinating with actions at the global level, notably with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

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