Europe wins big on green fuels for planes and ships

(Transport and Environment, 19 Dec 2023) This year, Europe agreed that its planes and ships would run on green fuels in the future. It’s a huge step forward for these polluting sectors, but it risks being undermined by lobby groups wanting to use clean fuels to power cars and trucks and by airlines buying unsustainable biofuels.

Unless we build revolutionary ships and planes with no emissions by 2030, it’s safe to say that the aircraft and ships we know today will continue to be in operation for years to come. But as the planet continues to burn, can we afford for them to run exclusively on fossil fuels? 

If the aviation and shipping sectors are to have any chance of survival in a warming world, Europe is in dire need of policies that require a switch from jet oil to cleaner alternatives, such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and green shipping fuels.

A proposal was submitted by the European Commission in 2021, then followed by two tumultuous years of painful negotiations. But in 2023 Europe finally voted into law the world’s largest green fuel mandates for planes and ships. These laws – known as ReFuelU Aviation and FuelEU Maritime – will be key to cleaning up these polluting sectors, alongside the carbon pollution fees under the emissions trading system.