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European Commission round table on sustainable aviation fuels

The European Commission is planning an initiative to promote the production and uptake of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). The Commission hosted a high-level round table discussion on this topic on 4 March 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. The purpose of this event was to assess the market for sustainable aviation fuels in Europe, its prospects for development, and different measures the EU could take to boost the production and supply of sustainable aviation fuels. The event gathered key stakeholders, including EU institutions, member states, fuel producers, aeronautical manufacturers, airlines, airports, NGOs, academia and investors, among others. As a result, there was a shared interest among stakeholders for working on SAF as an important element of the basket of measures to greening aviation, but not the only solution. There are a number of existing barriers that prevent development of SAF at significant scale: availability of feedstock, production, price. It is also important to improve the production capacity in the EU for sustainable fuels in general – enough to have around 2 per cent by 2025 and to avoid importation.  If a clear signal is given, this percentage can be higher. Co-ordination with other modes of transport is needed as also they will require a share of biofuels. But products like e-fuels should be directed to aviation only as other modes, like road transport, already have a viable alternative. Furthermore, it was emphasised in the meeting that we cannot focus on one pathway but on multiple feedstocks as some still require further research and need to be taken into account – grants and funding could be a way to allow this. The EU already presents a sustainability framework, RED II, which should be used instead of creating an aviation specific framework – we need to make sure, however, that there will be a share of SAF for aviation. The logistics to supply SAF seem to be largely sufficient. As for the price gap, we should not count on achieving price parity any time soon. The price gap might remain even if the price goes down. The gap needs to be covered (either by the passenger or by taxpayers). We should mobilise many EU and national funding mechanisms – some already have a mandate to support innovation projects (that is, the innovation fund under EU ETS). But we need a long-term reliable policy framework so that investors can fund the scaling up of production – a realistic and gradual blending mandate (on the supplier) would be an efficient way to create framework, preferable EU wide, ensuring the level playing field to ensure competition and avoid carbon leakage. However, any obligation needs to be met with sufficient supply. There was agreement in the room on the preference on obligation on suppliers rather than users (that is, airlines). An open question remains on how to formulate the mandate (a fuel GHG approach preferred).