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CO2 Reduction Objectives
Must Be Ambitious


Simon Bennett,
Director of Policy and External Relations,
International Chamber of Shipping



Shipping is by far the most carbon-efficient form of commercial transport and has a good story to tell when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions.

As a result of fuel efficiency measures, the total CO2 emissions from the sector are considerably lower than they were in 2008, despite increased maritime trade, while CO2 emissions from the rest of the global economy are projected to continue increasing until the 2030s.

However, the industry recognizes that shipping needs to do even more and is determined to step up to the challenge, notwithstanding the considerable technical and political difficulties.

In June 2017, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) member states will begin the development of a road map to reduce CO2 emissions from the international shipping sector, in line with the ambitious spirit of the Paris Agreement, adopted by the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015. The intention is for the IMO to agree on an initial strategy for this road map in 2018.

This important decision by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in October 2016 was at the direct request of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and other international shipping associations, which called on the IMO to act as soon as possible in order to prevent the serious threat of unilateral or regional action by governments.

The ICS is confident that the IMO can adopt an ambitious strategy by 2018 matching the ambition of the Paris Agreement. However, ICS members have concluded that to be consistent with the spirit of the Paris Agreement, the IMO needs to agree on a baseline year for peak CO2 emissions from shipping, as well as on some serious long-term aspirations to dramatically cut the sector’s total CO2 emissions by the middle of the century.

The ICS also believes that the IMO should adopt aspirational objectives for the sector as a whole, rather than set targets for individual ships, in the same way that governments have already agreed on CO2 commitments for their national economies under the Paris Agreement.

The IMO has made real progress to address CO2 emissions from shipping, having adopted the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) in 2011, as a result of which ships built in 2025 will be at least 30 percent more efficient than most of those constructed before 2013.

In spite of this progress, it is clear that society at large, as well as many governments, now expects the IMO to deliver even more. Shipping and aviation, being international transport sectors, are not covered by the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to which governments have committed as part of the Paris Agreement.

The IMO has the mandate for addressing CO2 emissions from international shipping, but it is vulnerable to the charge that shipping is now the only sector of the world economy that has not yet established goals with years and dates, however provisional, for when CO2 emissions attributed to the sector might peak and then subsequently start being reduced. In theory, at least, this has now been done for land-based sectors via the INDCs committed by governments, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has now also done the same for international aviation.

It is necessary for the shipping industry to have a clear view of future needs. In view of projections for growth in world trade, over which the industry has no control, truly ambitious CO2 cuts by the sector in the longer term can only be achieved with alternative (fossil-free) fuels, which are not expected to be available for at least another 20 or 30 years. Any strategy adopted by the IMO, therefore, needs to focus on planning for serious research and the delivery of such alternative fuels as soon as possible.

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