Ecofys report recommends the industry develops a common sustainability standard for aviation biofuels
Wed 25 Feb 2015 – The variety of international voluntary certification schemes and the different legislations, notably in the EU and US, in place regarding biofuel sustainability provides the aviation industry with challenging complications for the global adoption of aviation biofuels. Given the importance of a common standard for measuring sustainability, IATA commissioned sustainable energy consultancy Ecofys to generate proposals that the industry could adopt as a first step towards achieving greater harmonisation of differing standards for biofuels applied in jurisdictions across the world. In its report just published, Ecofys recommends encouraging the EU and US authorities to adopt mutual recognition of their RED and RFS2 standards for aviation and the industry should develop a common sustainability standard, or meta-standard.
In its study, Ecofys assessed the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) and its analysis shows a significant number of similarities, although both standards use different methodologies. While not yet used today, any jet biofuel reported within these systems would have to comply with the sustainability criteria of both. Mutual recognition between the two standards is a desirable option, says Ecofys, as it would enable biofuel to be freely traded between the EU and US. It would also provide a strong basis to develop an internationally accepted approach to biofuels sustainability as they are the two major legislative standards in place today.
Ecofys adds the development of a global market-based mechanism (MBM) by ICAO, in which the use of sustainable biofuels in terms of emissions reductions would be taken into account, provides an ideal opportunity for the UN agency to play a role in the EU/US mutual recognition process, which it recommends IATA should encourage.
In addition, a number of international voluntary schemes – such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) – have emerged for the certification of biomass sustainability, driven in large part by the acceptance in the EU RED as a means to demonstrate compliance with mandatory sustainability criteria. However, they differ in the scope and details of the sustainability criteria they cover.
Ecofys says the development of a meta-standard would be a participatory process to define the ambition levels of sustainability for the aviation industry and any voluntary scheme could be benchmarked against this standard. Each airline could then decide on using specific voluntary schemes that comply best with their own ambitions.
The report recommends the meta-standard should be developed in a multi-stakeholder process and have minimum key requirements, such as sustainability principles and/or criteria, that biofuel producers would need to meet in order to be recognised by the aviation industry or governments internationally. A key first step, say the authors, would be to establish a standard owner of the meta-standard, which could be ICAO or IATA, or a new, independent organisation.
As a next step, Ecofys recommends developing a roadmap to implement the options to ensure the use of sustainable biofuels can be incorporated into the global MBM discussions and be ready in time for inclusion from 2016.
“It is increasingly important to align global policy on sustainability standards,” said Matthias Spöttle, Bioenergy Consultant at Ecofys and co-author of the report. “In an ideal situation, airlines would be able to purchase fuel from any location and use it on any flight and know that it complies with the given sustainability criteria.”
In a foreword to the report, IATA’s Director, Aviation Environment, Michael Gill, added: “With the increasing use of sustainable aviation fuels, what is understood to be sustainable must be consistent throughout the world. It is increasingly important that the global policy on sustainability standards be aligned and for sustainable aviation fuels to have common metrics. While it may not be practical to redesign standards significantly in the quest for a global solution, it should be possible to harmonise legislation.
“Furthermore, we believe that this report will make a valuable contribution to the success of the ongoing work taking place on the development of a global MBM for aviation.”