The commercial shipping sector is responsible for a billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, a little more than Germany, and its contribution is set to skyrocket, according to a new pressure group report.
Bill Hemmings, of pressure group Transport Environment, says that emissions by commercial shipping globally will increase 250 per cent between now and 2015 unless the United Nations’ major maritime and environmental bodies, the IMO and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) find common ground.
Transport Environment is calling for greater regulation of the industry with a carbon tax or carbon credit market established, but the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), head quartered in London, has held back on supporting such calls, instead pushing the industry’s growth agenda.
In his opening remarks to an IMO conference in London recently, Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu made clear that growth would take priority over emission reductions in the coming years.
“Shipping has a great potential for growth to meet the demand of the world economy but shipping also has a great potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions, while achieving further growth of maritime transport,” he said. The report by Transport Environment questions whether the two objectives can co-exist, and points to recent reductions in emissions as evidence that growth of the industry will undermine emissions reduction targets.
The shipping industry’s share of global emissions fell from 3.2 per cent in 2007 to 2.5 per cent in 2012, according to the latest figures approved by the UN’s International Maritime Organisation.
According to the Transport Environment group, the reduction was more due to the financial crisis than environmental regulation. During the downturn, there was a slump in global trade and shipping companies were operating ships at less than full capacity, requiring new measures to reduce operating costs, such as ‘slow steaming’ which reduced emissions and the company’s fuel bill.
The IMO has made some indirect steps to limit emissions, the main one being energy efficiency design standards for new ships and energy efficiency management plans, but there is no minimum standard for the content of these.
“That is all very welcome, but it does not change the underlying facts,” says Hemmings. “Shipping is on track for a very large increase in emissions to 2050.”
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