Next week, countries are supposed to finalise a deal on limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) environment meeting in London is expected to set a concrete target for shipping emissions in the coming decades. After the Paris Agreement and a deal on emissions from International Aviation, shipping is the last sector to contribute to global climate action.
A climate shipping deal has been long in the making. The IMO first adopted a resolution on GHG emissions in 1997. However talks have stalled. There are several issues to overcome. There is concern that the impacts of any deal will fall disproportionately on flag states with many ships registered. Just six flag states – Panama, China, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Singapore and Malta – account for over half of global shipping CO2 emissions.
However, there is concern that there is not yet enough data on ship emissions to consider setting a global target, or that shipping does not have the technical means to decarbonise.
the IMO adopted two technical measures on energy efficiency in 2011 and will require ships to report on their fuel consumption from 2019, no overall cap or reduction on shipping emissions has been set.
EU member states, including the UK, have supported a “70-100%” reduction on 2008 emissions by 2050, and a 90% reductions in the carbon intensity of shipping.
Japan has proposed that emissions be cut to 50% below 2008 levels by 2060, along with a 40% improvement in ships’ fuel efficiency by 2030. Japan also includes the idea of “amendments” to the goal, pending an IMO review of its achievability at a later date.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and other trade groups have proposed simply capping shipping emissions at 2008 levels, along with a 50% efficiency improvement by 2050. A group of low-ambition countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China and Turkey, argue against any absolute emissions cap, saying it could result in carbon leakage to other transport modes such as rail and air.
The shipping industry emitted 932 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015, according to a recent report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). This corresponded to around 2.6% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, up from around 2.2% in 2012.
The IMO’s most recent study on international shipping emissions estimated they could grow between 50% and 250% by 2050, under current measures. As other sectors are set to decarbonise, this means shipping could grow to represent an ever larger portion of global emissions if not cap is set.
According to Green Peace, Ships carry over 80% of world trade, using vessels that operate on marine fuels which are cheaper but dirtier than road transport diesel fuels.
If the shipping sector were a country, it would rank sixth in the list of carbon emitters, just above Germany. The sector’s emissions have been growing three times faster than global emissions and if left unchecked emissions could grow by 50-250% by 2050.
Source: Carbon Brief / Green Peace