For the French government, this is a new checkbox in the list of objectives of the hexagonal presidency of the Council of the EU, as well as a first step forward in the announced “greening” of European transport. For air and aeronautics, this is a major step, but insufficient towards the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
After more than two years of negotiations, the Twenty-seven Transport Ministers, meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, have reached an agreement on the transport component of the European Green Deal. announced in July 2021. It aims to reduce polluting emissions from transport by 55% by 2030 (compared to 1990) and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Starting with the sector most exposed to criticism by climate advocates: air transport.
A decarbonization roadmap
The ReFuelEU Aviation project, adopted this Thursday, is not content to set targets for reducing CO2, sanctioned by a tax. Finally, it is giving European airlines, which have been looking forward to it, the means to achieve this by establishing, for the first time, a roadmap for the gradual replacement of kerosene of petroleum origin by biofuels or biofuels. synthesis.
From 1er January 2025, aviation fuel suppliers departing from all European airports with more than one million passengers will have to incorporate a minimum of 2% sustainable fuels into the “jetfuel”. Au 1er January 2030, this share will rise to 5%, of which 0.7% will be synthetic fuel, hydrogen-based products and CO capture2. Then 20% in 2035 (including 5% of synthetic fuels), 32% in 2040, 38% in 2045 and 63% in 2050 (with 28% of synthetic fuels).
A project hailed by French companies
The adoption of the draft regulation “ReFuelEU Aviation” was applauded at the annual conference of the National Aviation Federation and its trades (FNAM), which brings together all actors in air transport in France. For companies as for the aerospace industry sustainable fuels are considered the main decarbonization tool, at least for the next 20 years.
An effort will also be made on fuels in the maritime sector, for which the project adopted by the ministers sets targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from energy used on board ships and also tightens the tone on the energy spent on the dock. The aim of the proposal is to reduce the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions from energy used on board ships by 75% by 2050.
Usable in all current aircraft, they reduce the carbon footprint of a flight by up to 85%, CO2 being offset by CO2 captured by the biomass from which they come, or by capture in the atmosphere in the case of synthetic fuels. Added to the future new generation of mid-range aircraft expected around 2035, which will reduce fuel consumption by at least 30%, these sustainable fuels would already achieve carbon neutrality on some of the traffic.
“Still need to be found”
“We still have to find one,” he said on Thursday the general manager of Air France , Anne Rigail. Because, for now, world fuel production remains ultra-confidential and close to zero in France. And this, although the government has already established the obligation to incorporate 1% of biofuel in kerosene as early as 2023.
Hence the impatience of airlines to adopt regulations requiring fuel producers to accelerate the production of sustainable fuels. Air France and the main players in the sector were even campaigning for a more ambitious 10% incorporation rate by 2030. But thanks to this regulation, European production is expected to increase from a few hundred thousand tonnes to 160 million tonnes a year. by 2050. More than a hundred production sites, including at least three in France, are expected to emerge in Europe, with more than 200,000 turnkey job creations.
What to cover the needs of air transport in Europe by 2050, but also to reduce the cost of its sustainable fuels, today four to five times more expensive than conventional kerosene. Nevertheless, even if the European Union plans to subsidize the establishment of this sector, this energy transition will inevitably result in an increase in air fares, from 8.1% to 8.2%, according to experts. Brussels.