EU to tackle shipping emissions

Ship emissions came under fire this week with the EU set on tackling CO2 from shipping through the ETS, and on-going discussions on regulating other air pollutants from maritime transport.

In the face of inaction on the international level, the EU has confirmed it will act on threats of including shipping in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

A European Commission official said that the EU executive will propose shipping be included in the ETS: “Not enough progress has been made in the international framework. We think it’s important to do something on our side,” she told Reuters on Monday.

Carbon emissions from shipping are almost double those of aviation, are not included in the Kyoto Protocol, and remain largely unregulated despite many years of talks at the International Maritime Organisation.

Green transport campaigners welcomed the policy push from the EU but said that the ETS is not an efficient way of curbing CO2 from ships and will not be sufficient to bring them down.

The ETS has less of an effect on international transport such as shipping because, unlike heavy industry, these sectors are not subject to competition from outside the EU, said Joao Vieira of the Transport Environment NGO.

“Aviation and shipping will be protected from the risk of relocation outside Europe, so there is less pressure on them to reduce emissions,” he told edie.

He said that other measures specifically designed for the shipping sector – such as charging polluting ships more for docking in a port – would be much more effective.

Such measures have already been implemented and so “we wouldn’t have to start from scratch” – ports from Scandinavia to Canada already operate emission-sensitive port charges (see related story).

Shipping carbon emissions account for around 5% of the global total and are growing fast, according to data from oil giant BP and the Institute for Physics and Atmosphere in Wessling, Germany. As shipping accounts for 90% of goods transported worldwide, this is perhaps not surprising. CO2 from shipping could go up by 75% in the next 15 to 20 years, the researchers warned.

The rise is down to two factors: growth in trade and lack of regulation, according to Joao Vieira: “First of all there is no incentive to reduce emissions, there are no incentives to make them use more efficient ships nor rewards for companies that load their ships better, for example. “Second, world trade is increasing and with this you generate further need for transport, more trade links between Asia and Europe, more goods being moved around.

“But while the second factor is difficult to deal with on the first one we can do a lot, and we haven’t been doing anything in the last few years.”

Action on an EU level is essential considering the long decision-making period of organisations like the IMO, and their track record to date.

“The IMO has been discussing for a long time how they are going to tackle ship emissions and they are still discussing. So if we are to tackle it through the IMO we shouldn’t expect anything for the next decade I would say,” Joao Vieira said.

“They have been asked in 1997 to deal with CO2 emissions from ships and they are still discussing measurement procedures etc.”

Goska Romanowicz

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