Shipping is responsible for a very substantial 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 global targets and effective reduction measures are adopted.

Shipping is responsible for a very substantial 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 global targets and effective reduction measures are adopted.

According to a 2009 United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation expert group report international shipping was in 2007 responsible for 870 million tonnes of CO2, around 2.7% of total global CO2 emissions. 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.

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). Still, over a decade later no action has been taken by the IMO to reduce or limit the growth of CO2 emissions from shipping.

However, the pressure for international action is building. The European Commission has made it clear that it will come forward with proposals of its own if the IMO fails to act, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process is considering shipping (along with aviation) for inclusion in the global CO2 reduction targets for the period from 2012. Encouraged by both of these developments and fearful of loosing its position as the competent authority for all matters to do with shipping and the environment, the IMO is now working on design and operational standards and has a timetable, albeit a weak one, for developing a market-based measure.

Whether agreed via the IMO or the UNFCCC process the following are essential requirements for a successful greenhouse gas reduction scheme for shipping:

  • Targets must be set for 2020 and 2050;
  • These targets must be consistent with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified CO2 reduction requirements for keeping climate change well below 1.5ºC;
  • The industry must achieve real reductions in its total emissions by 2020 (excluding any offsetting);
  • The urgent need for very substantial cuts in CO2 emissions means that the vast majority of the cuts should be ensured via mandatory requirements;
  • Cuts on the scale required will only be possible with a multi-instrument approach; in short, every possibility (economic, technical, and operational) for reductions must be explored to the maximum extent;
  • Measures should apply to all ships regardless of their flag.

Seas At Risk will be promoting these requirements at the IMO, within the UNFCCC process, and at EU level.

Going slow to reduce emissions
There is a gap between what measures currently on the table at IMO will deliver in the short to medium term and the cuts needed in the short-term to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C. In response to this Seas At Risk is working with partners Transport & Environment to promote reductions in ship speed, or “regulated slow steaming” as it is known as a route to deep cuts in emissions in the short term. See below for some recent publications.

Smarter Steaming Ahead: Policy Options, Costs and Benefits of Regulated Slow Steaming (BROCHURE)Smarter Steaming Ahead: Policy Options, Costs and Benefits of Regulated Slow Steaming (BROCHURE)
Regulated Slow Steaming in Maritime Transport: An assessment of Options, Costs & Benefits (REPORT OF STUDY)
Going Slow to Reduce Emissions: Can the current surplus of maritime transport capacity be turned into an opportunity to reduce GHG emissions? (REPORT OF STUDY)

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