Shipping is responsible for a large part of total global emissions of CO2, yet at present there are no targets for limiting or reducing these emissions. Seas At Risk is working at United Nations and EU level to change this situation and ensure that appropriately stringent targets and effective reduction measures are adopted. 

According to a 2009 United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation (IMO) expert group report international shipping was in 2007 responsible for 870 million tonnes of CO2, around 2.7% of total global CO2 emissions (when domestic shipping was included this rose to 3.3%). Emissions from shipping have been growing rapidly in recent years and in the absence of regulation are predicted to rise to 1,475 million tonnes (or 6% of the total) by 2020. Without measures to tackle shipping emissions they are likely to undermine other efforts at tackling climate change.

Greenhouse gases from shipping were not included in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol targets, but developed countries (those listed in Annex I of the Protocol) are obliged to pursue reductions by working through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). But progress has been painfully slow. An unambitious target for the energy efficiency of new ships is in place but no binding measure has been agreed to reduce GHG emissions from the existing fleet of ships, let alone set a reduction target. 

Frustrated by the lack of progress at IMO the European Union has agreed a regional system for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of ship GHG emissions and the IMO now looks like it will follow suit. This, however, is just the start. The problem of shipping’s impact on the climate can only be solved with a suite of ambitious measures addressing the design of new ships, the operation of existing ships and the introduction of fuel efficient and renewable technologies, all within the framework of clear emission reduction targets that are consistent with avoiding dangerous climate change.

For more on Seas At Risk’s work to reduce the speed and emissions of ships see here.