Shippers agree first ever climate change target

posted by Francis Churchill
16 April 2018

The international shipping industry has adopted an initial strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set out for the first time a target for the industry to reduce its total GHG emissions. It aims to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008.

The move is a first step to bring the shipping industry in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit temperature rises. Despite being a major contributor to GHG emissions, international shipping was not covered under that original accord.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change estimates shipping accounts for 2.2% of global CO2 emissions and predicted that, without action, this would rise by 50-250% by 2050. Patricia Espinosa, UN climate change executive secretary, called the cap a “major milestone in addressing climate change”.

“It will accelerate the inevitable decarbonization of global shipping, which we all need to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said.

The UK Chamber of Shipping (COS) has also welcomed the agreement but said it should be seen as a first step to long-term decarbonisation.

Guy Platten, CEO of COS, said: “Crucially this should be seen as a stepping stone towards decarbonisation in the long term, something which must be continue to be a major focus in the years ahead.”

He added that while the industry has made progress in the form of battery-powered ferries, improved hydrodynamics and more efficient engines, these were “marginal gains” and not enough to meet the new target. “There is widespread understanding that in the long term the industry needs to be powered by carbon-free fuel, and that will almost certainly mean a mix of battery, hydrogen and other zero-carbon fuels,” he said.

The decision to introduce a GHG emissions target for the industry was made by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee during its seventy-second session at the IMO headquarters in London.

The initial strategy has laid out a framework for member states which includes increasing the efficiency of ships through improved design, reducing the carbon intensity of shipping and reaching “peak emissions” as soon as possible before moving to a decline.

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