Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
75. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the Government will consider introducing incentives in order that Ireland can position itself as a world leader in pioneering sustainable aviation. [62251/21]
As a small open economy on the periphery of Europe, the aviation sector is critical for the movement of Ireland's goods and people. It generally underpins our economic development, the expansion of our tourism sector and in particular our success in attracting foreign direct investment. Nevertheless, the contribution of aviation to climate change is undeniable and the need to move towards a more sustainable model is now fully accepted across the industry.
Sustainable aviation is a very broad term that encompasses many facets of the aviation industry from greener airports, the use of sustainable aviation fuels, improved aircraft technology and more efficient air traffic management.
Whilst my Department does not have any plans at present to introduce incentives in relation to sustainable aviation, it is considering strategies to promote the sustainability of the industry through the EU Fit for 55 package of proposals which includes, inter alia, measures to increase the uptake of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and proposed amendments to the aviation aspects of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
For example, Ireland strongly supports the ReFuelEU Initiative which will mandate fuel suppliers to blend increasing levels of SAF with kerosene over the coming decades. Consultations are already ongoing to ascertain the impact the proposed mandated levels of SAF will have on the industry, and although Ireland currently imports over 90% of kerosene, it is possible that as the blending mandates increase, production of sustainable and synthetic aviation fuel may take place domestically.
Separately, Ireland is also a keen proponent of the proposed Reform of the Single European Skies (SES) Regulatory Framework which will modernise the management of European airspace and establish more sustainable and efficient flightpaths. This can reduce air transport carbon emissions by up to 10%.
As a ‘technology taker’ Ireland does not have an indigenous aircraft or engine manufacturing industry and is unlikely to play a significant role in the development of new aircraft technology. It does, however, have the potential for mass generation of green energy and therefore green hydrogen. As outlined in the Climate Action Plan, green hydrogen will be an important tool in permanently decarbonising transport, including through the use of blended Sustainable Aviation Fuels and there may be opportunities for Ireland in this space as the technology develops over the coming years.
The Renewable Fuels for Transport Policy Statement sets out a roadmap for the supply and use of renewable fuels in transport energy, including updates to the Biofuel Obligation Scheme. While sustainable aviation fuels are not obligated under the Biofuels Obligation Scheme, fuel suppliers that place SAF on the market in Ireland can apply for biofuel obligation scheme certificates for this. Additionally, the Department of Transport intends to carry out a review of the supply of renewable transport fuels in Ireland, such as biofuels, advanced biofuels, e-fuels, synthetic fuels, green hydrogen and biogas in 2022.
The Government has put in place a range of funding measures to assist our airports with regard to climate resilience, including through the Regional Airports Programme (RAP) 2021-2025. The previous RAP provided funding for safety and security projects, however the 2021-2025 Programme now includes funding for capital projects with a sustainability focus. The funding is aimed at helping expedite airports’ efforts to reduce emissions in line with the 2021-2025 Programme’s goal to move towards carbon neutrality. The COVID-19 Regional State Airports Programme 2021 also supported projects incorporating measures to support sustainability.
More generally, the Climate Action Fund was established on a statutory basis in 2020. At least €500 million will be available from this Fund over the period to 2027 to support projects, initiatives and research across the economy that contribute to the achievement of Ireland’s climate and energy targets, and goals. To date, over €140 million has been committed from the Climate Action Fund for a range of projects. Opportunities to secure support from the Climate Action Fund will also be available during 2022, particularly in relation to projects and initiatives that are aligned with the recently published Climate Action Plan.
In relation to other possible funding opportunities, the European Union's Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) supports the development of Europe's transport, energy and digital services networks. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis and information on open calls under this programme and others is available on the EU's funding and tenders portal. Likewise the EU Innovation Fund which is financed from revenue from the auctioning of 450 million allowances from 2020 to 2030 under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), aims to fund innovative technology that delivers the avoidance of Green House Gas emissions. In Ireland this fund is administered by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.