Shipping would profit by cutting CO2 emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions from the global shipping industry could be cut by at least one fifth without any cost or even at a profit.

Shipping activity could double or even triple by 2050 under business-as-usual scenarios according to a new report from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Consequently, greenhouse gas emissions from ships could increase by up to 250 per cent by 2050 if no further action is taken in this area.
   New emission data for 2007 shows that shipping emitted 1,046 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), corresponding to 3.3 per cent of global emissions. By comparison, international aviation’s share was 1.9 per cent. Of the total emissions from shipping, 870 million tonnes came from international shipping while the remaining 176 million tonnes came from domestic shipping and fishing vessels.
   However the report also reveals the major potential that exists for shipping to cut its emissions through new technologies and practices. Many of these measures would actually save the industry money because of the fuel savings incurred.
   Together, if implemented, these measures could increase efficiency and reduce the emissions rate by 25–75 per cent below the current levels, according to the report.

A whole range of measures, including towing kites, speed reductions, and upgrades to hulls, engines and propellers, were considered by the report’s authors. They also found that economic instruments, such as emissions trading or a bunker fuel levy, are efficient and cost-effective policies to tackle shipping emissions
  “The shipping industry, currently responsible for more greenhouse emissions than the UK or Canada, now has no excuses for remaining outside international emissions reductions frameworks,” said Peter Lockley, head of transport policy at WWF UK.

The IMO has been under pressure from the European Union and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) to come forward with concrete proposals to reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The issue will be discussed further at an IMO meeting in July, which is expected to finalise the IMO’s position ahead of the UN FCCC conference in Copenhagen in December.
  “It is vital that shipping emissions come within an overall cap under the post-2012 climate regime, as they are projected to rise even if gains in efficiency are taken into consideration,” Lockley said.

Should the Copenhagen agreement fail to include global maritime emissions and if no international reduction targets are agreed through the IMO, the EU plans to include the sector in its emission trading scheme.

Christer Ågren

Second IMO GHG Study 2009. Document MEPC 59/INF.10. International Maritime Organisation, See also press release from WWF UK at

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