NGOs Disappointed at New Postponement of Action to Cut Shipping Emissions

Published Oct 2, 2012 3:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The European Commission has announced that it will propose, in early 2013, measures to monitor, verify and report on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from shipping. This measure will apply to all ships calling at EU ports and could also be the basis for a global approach towards cleaner shipping. This is an important prerequisite to further action and NGOs Transport & Environment and Seas At Risk call on EU states to proceed quickly to implement this measure and ensure that information on ship efficiency is shared transparently. This will enable commercial decisions to be better informed.

However, green groups are disappointed because emissions monitoring doesn’t address the main issue at stake: reducing GHG emissions from ships.  Shipping is responsible for over 3% of global GHG emissions and will double by 2020 if no measure is taken to curb them. The EU has thus far not taken any measures to tackle GHGs from the shipping sector, and progress within the International Maritime Organisation on a global market-based measure has stalled amid arguments over technology transfer and global climate change policy.

The call for improved energy efficiency for existing ships is a welcome move and efforts should proceed in parallel at the EU and IMO level but should not delay an early decision on an EU market based measure.

Studies clearly show that there is enormous potential to improve the fuel efficiency of shipping, and at least a 20% reduction in emission would be cost-free, but industry barriers are still preventing the adoption of many measures. 

Ship speed is also a key determinant of efficiency with circa 50% of the mitigation potential for existing ships lying in reduced speed. Measures are needed to capture this potential and ensure that the world fleet does not speed up again once the global economy recovers. It’s also important to ensure that improved fuel efficiency is not converted into higher operating speeds.

While EU action will only focus on monitoring GHG emissions in the next months, the Commission should also consider the best means to monitor ship emissions of other key pollutants such as SOx and NOx. Stricter verification standards for such pollutants will need to be enforced in 2015/16.