Aviation risks undercutting EU’s new renewables rules

(EurActiv, 11 Feb 2019) The ink is barely dry on the EU’s revised renewable energy policy and already it is under threat from the aviation sector, warn Jori Sihvonen and Andrew Murphy.

Jori Sihvonen and Andrew Murphy are experts with green transport NGO Transport & Environment.

That sector’s UN aviation agency, ICAO, known for its “spectacular lack of transparency”, is once more having a closed door meeting which risks clearing the way for the type of bad biofuels the EU has spent a decade trying to get rid of. And, on top of that, they are seeking to add “lower carbon” aviation fossil fuels as an option to cut aviation emissions.

ICAO and the aviation sector have been looking to biofuels to reverse their massive and continuing emissions growth. The agency has agreed that biofuels should be an option to comply with CORSIA, the global offsetting measure that aims to limit aviation emissions to 2020 levels.

But this also means that ICAO has to develop rules for what biofuels can be credited and by how much – ie, how much of an emissions reduction each biofuel delivers.

This is where this week’s meeting of ICAO’s environment committee in Montreal plays a significant role. It will decide rules for biofuels based on technical work done over the last three years. The meeting will also decide the main work areas for the next three years.

Last year, 12 themes for sustainability criteria were proposed but only two were adopted by ICAO’s governing council.

The two criteria adopted include: no deforestation after 2009 and a 10% greenhouse gas savings threshold – including emissions from indirect land-use change or ILUC. (ILUC refers to the indirect effect of increasing the demand for agricultural land – in this case for biofuels – and displacing the existing production to expand the agricultural frontier to natural habitats, mainly forest and grassland, causing emissions from deforestation.)

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EurActiv, 11 Feb 2019: Aviation risks undercutting EU’s new renewables rules