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A4E CEOs Lay Out Prerequisites for Green Deal Success at Annual Summit

By  Brussels, — Last updated on 8 December 2023
  • Urgent implementation of Single European Sky (SES) and updated SES Regulation;
  • Dedicated EU industrial policy for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs);
  • Stepped up global climate diplomacy efforts and full implementation of the UN’s international aviation climate protection system, CORSIA;CORSIA — Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. Under CORSIA, airlines are required to compensate for the increase in CO2 emissions above 2020 levels covered by the scheme. It is forecast that CORSIA will mitigate over 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2020 and 2035. This system will offset growth-related emissions from global air traffic and make international air traffic growth CO2-neutral.
  • Investment and incentives for future decarbonisation technologies & innovations.

At their annual Aviation Summit today, A4E CEOs called for joint industry efforts to make Europe’s Green Deal a success while stressing the need for legislative action in four key areas:

  1. The urgent implementation of Europe’s long-overdue Single European Sky could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 10%, resulting in 25 million tonnesSource: EASA Environmental Report 2019, page 76 of emissions savings per year. A swift update of the SES regulatory framework by 2021 is needed to ensure future air traffic management efficiencies can be realised.
  2. Legislative options to boost the development and uptake of sustainable aviation fuels. SAFs have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation by up to 85%.
  3. Full implementation of the United Nations’ global aviation climate protection system, CORSIA. The development of more ambitious, long-term International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) goals is essential.
  4. Investments and incentives for innovations such as electric and hybrid engine technologies, would help airlines move away from fossil fuels.

“As Europe’s airlines, we are united in our aim to make the European Green Deal a success. We see this as part of our commitment to European society. We look forward to working closely with industry and policy makers to make the continent’s skies the most efficient and environmentally friendly in the world — because failing is simply not an option”, said Benjamin Smith, CEO of the Air France-KLM Group and A4E’s 2020 Chairman.

Over the next 10 years, A4E airlines will invest €169 billion in greener aircraft technologies which are on average 25% cleaner and less noisy than their predecessors. Potential pathways towards a net-zero, or low-carbon air transport of the future are currently being explored through a cross-sector study with Europe’s airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers, led by A4E.

“The challenge of tackling climate change is considerable. Airlines are doing their share, but in some areas, like air traffic management, we need action from other parts of the industry and EU leaders in order to succeed”, said Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG). “The modernisation of European airspace is both urgent and long overdue. By redesigning our airspace and creating an integrated system with more efficient flight paths, Europe could eliminate some 25 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. This responsibility now lies with the Croatian and German Presidencies of the EU Council. The creation of a Single European Sky has been debated for 20 years — we cannot afford to wait any longer”, Walsh added.

Boosting the production and uptake of SAFs will be essential if EU airlines are to succeed in reducing their carbon footprint. In 2012, the EU set a target of producing two million tons of SAFs in Europe. Eight years later, production is significantly behind schedule.

“The fact is, well-designed measures to support the development of SAFs were not sufficiently considered in the 2018 Review of the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) and are still crucially missing. A tailor-made EU industrial policy for the deployment of innovative aviation fuels through financing and balanced legislation, as foreseen by the European Green Deal, is greatly welcomed to correct the SAFs’ market failure”, said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of A4E. “Such legislation needs to prioritise additional incentives for aviation, instead of putting in place compulsory mandates for blending irrespective of price, production volumes, or competitiveness considerations”, Reynaert added.

Full and swift implementation of CORSIA, whilst contributing to the development of more ambitious long-term goals at the ICAO level would ensure that carbon mitigation efforts in Europe transcend EU borders, as only globally coordinated carbon reduction measures will be effective. The EU must also step up its climate diplomacy efforts to ensure more reluctant countries such as China, Russia, India and Brazil join the CORSIA system by 2021. In parallel, legislators need to work to ensure that future changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) avoid overlaps among both EU and global market-based measures.

Finally, EU investment and support for future technologies that can deliver meaningful emissions reductions is essential to support aviation’s sustainability transformation over the long-term. Greater support is needed for research, development and innovation around electric and hybrid engine technologies that can effectively help airlines reduce their dependency on fossil fuels.