Shipping emissions must be tackled on global scale, warns FTA

Friday 04 November 2011

FTA has welcomed proposals to incorporate the UK’s share of emissions from international shipping into the Climate Change Act, but has warned that maritime emissions reductions should be tackled at a global level through the International Maritime Organisation, rather than nationally or at a regional level otherwise the UK’s competitiveness could be damaged.

Chris Welsh, FTA’s General Manager of Global and European Policy, said:

“We support in principle the inclusion of shipping emissions into the Climate Change Act. But shipping is a global industry and we must avoid taking on the burden of reducing emissions alone or else we will be put on an uneven footing with the rest of the world. This would be bad news for the UK economy and could ultimately mean that less environmentally efficient countries take business away from the UK, thereby making emission levels worse.

“Clearly, the UK government should play a larger role in encouraging other governments around the world to support an international agreement to cut emissions through the IMO.”

While there is a need to reduce or at least stabilise CO2 and greenhouse gas levels to ensure temperatures do not rise further and cause dangerous climate change, it should be remembered that shipping is a comparatively energy efficient way of moving lots of goods very long distances – carrying around 80 per cent of all world trade in volume, it makes up just 2.7 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Welsh concluded:

“Paradoxically, it is precisely shipping’s green credentials that will attract more companies to move goods by sea and increase its contribution to reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need to ensure that the approach taken to reduce shipping emissions is done at a global level rather than simply trying to solve the problem by introducing emission reductions piecemeal and region-by-region. Additionally, we must have a rigorous and robust method of calculating and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from freight, so that we can track the progress the industry is making.”

Notes for editors

The Committee on Climate Change, the Government’s independent body which identifies how the UK can meet national greenhouse gas reduction targets, has recommended that greenhouse gas emissions from shipping should be included in future UK carbon budgets. Currently, the UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 based on 1990 levels, but to date international shipping and aviation are not included.

In a report published today, the Committee advises:

Shipping emissions could account for up to 10% of emissions allowed under the 2050 target and therefore needs to be incorporated into reduction targets but could create further reduction pressures on other sectors such as electricity, heat and surface vehicles.

The UK should be responsible for half of all the emissions associated with ships entering or leaving national ports – the other half being borne by whichever countries lie at the other end of the journeys. According to the CCC, the UK’s share of international shipping emissions is 12-16 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

A number of decarbonisation measures have been identified to improve the fuel efficiency of ships such as slow-steaming and using software to help navigators find the safest and most efficient route. Measures already utilised by shippers. Additionally, advances in technology leading to changes such as upgrading propulsion systems and engines and using towing kites to allow ships to use wind energy can also reduce emissions. However, the CCC notes that there is scope to go much further in reducing ship emissions than international measures agreed by the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in July this year. The CCC reports that alternative measures such as using biofuels or liquefied natural gas as fuel, could reduce ships’ share of carbon by up to five per cent.

Calculating and allocating greenhouse gas emissions for international shipping is complex and there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the appropriate methodology and a lack of data available. The CCC reviewed 150,000 records of shipping movements into and out of UK ports to calculate UK shipping emissions. 


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