The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is gearing up for an enhanced environmental role. The European Union (EU) is delegating new responsibilities to EASA to oversee the aviation sector’s journey towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Not only will the agency monitor this progress, but it will also ensure transparency for European citizens.
On September 13, 2023, the European Parliament approved the ReFuelEU Aviation initiative, a significant regulation under the European Green Deal. This decision builds upon a provisional agreement with the EU Council earlier in April, with the final text adoption anticipated soon.
EASA’s Expanded Role: SAF Promotion and CO2 Monitoring
The implications of this regulation are far-reaching for EASA. One of the crucial tasks will be to advocate for and evaluate the adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and keep track of the resulting decrease in CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the agency has been tasked to conceive an environmental labeling structure for the aviation sector. The intention? To furnish travelers with factual, science-backed data on emissions, aiding them in making informed decisions when reserving flights.
EASA at the Center of Sustainable Aviation in Europe
Luc Tytgat, EASA’s Acting Executive Director, emphasized the significance of SAF, naming it the “most promising solution” for aviation decarbonization. He commented on ReFuelEU, “This legislation places EASA at the center of the drive to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions. Assigning this task to EASA also sends the clear message that sustainability cannot come at the expense of safety in aviation. We must become sustainable safely.”
ReFuelEU’s Goals for Sustainable Fuels
ReFuelEU Aviation’s objectives are clear. Starting in 2025, a minimum percentage of SAF is mandated to blend with jet fuel, reducing CO2 emissions systematically. By 2050, 70% of all fuel at EU airports is envisioned to be SAF. Synthetic aviation fuels constitute 35%, as they have a greater potential to reduce CO2 emissions. The regulation encompasses a minimum of 95% of flights taking off from EU airports.
To bolster this vision, ReFuelEU has instructed EASA to produce an annual report detailing essential SAF information, ranging from origin, quantity, and characteristics to price gap comparisons with traditional aviation fuels. The inaugural report is slotted for Q4 2025 release.
EASA’s Emission Labeling Initiative
EASA will also debut a labeling system by January 1, 2025, disclosing flight emission information to travelers. This label seeks to empower passengers with trustworthy, consistent, and neutral emission data, helping them choose flights more consciously. European airlines can voluntarily supply their operational statistics, including reported CO2 emissions, to be ratified by EASA.
Tackling ‘Economic Tankering’
Additionally, the new legislation targets ‘economic tankering’. This practice, where aircraft carry excess fuel to sidestep higher refueling costs at the destination, ironically increases pollution due to added aircraft weight.