The industry led by the International Chamber of Shipping have welcomed the decision of the UN Federal Climate Change Commission to exclude shipping from its regulatory framework. This is not uniformly supported even amongst shipowners but it seems that the IMO will continue to take the lead when it comes to controlling emissions.

In the run up to the COP21 climate change conference in Paris, there were conflicting reports as to the role played by shipping in contributing to CO2 emissions with many shipping observers not being particularly positive about the likely outcome of discussions.

One well-placed observer had suggested that the outlook for any meaningful agreement at the summit seemed remote, and that suggestions that shipping should contribute to green finance initiatives had not been well received in many quarters, not least because of the demand market conditions still prevailing in the sector, particularly in the dry bulk segment.

One bone of contention has been the estimates of how much shipping is contributing to CO2 emissions.

Shipping could be responsible for 17% of global CO2 emissions in 2050 if left unregulated, according to a new study commissioned by the European Parliament.

“Any agreement at the Paris Climate Summit must therefore send a clear signal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that CO2 reduction targets and measures for shipping are needed to help keep warming below dangerous levels,” according to NGOs Seas At Risk, Transport & Environment (T&E) and the Marine Conservation Society.

They presented a dossier to delegates at the IMO Assembly in London suggesting that that shipping emissions “are the elephant in the COP21 negotiations room”. Aviation has also come in for criticism.

According to the environmental groups, almost 40% of all CO2 emissions in 2050 will be caused by shipping and aviation if left unregulated. The suggestion is that the IMO has “so far failed to grasp the nettle on shipping’s growing contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, while the proposal for emissions cuts from industry – as represented by the International Chamber of Shipping – would fall short of what shipping needs to do to help meet the 2°C warming target limit by some 121%.”

“Without inclusion of ship GHG emissions in the Paris agreement and significant additional action to reduce emissions, shipping will consume a growing proportion of the 2 degree carbon budget and ultimately make it all but impossible to meet climate stabilisation targets.”

Sotiris Raptis, shipping policy officer at T&E, commented: “Now we know that, left unregulated, ships and airplanes could be responsible for almost 40% of global emissions in 2050 if other sectors decarbonise. Any deal in Paris must lead to an emissions reduction target and measures for shipping and aviation, otherwise the efforts of all other sectors of the global economy to meet the 2 degree target could be derailed.”

John Maggs, policy advisor at Seas At Risk and president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, added: “Paris should be the moment when the world sets itself on a course that avoids dangerous climate change. To achieve this all will have to play their part; there is no room for shirking responsibility or special pleading, least of all from an industry like shipping that has so much untapped potential to reduce emissions and move to a low carbon business model.”
In the run up to COP21 the International Chamber of Shipping has said that the industry’s CO2 reduction goals exceed government commitments in advance of the summit.

The ICS believes the mandatory CO2 reduction measures already adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), combined with the aggressive fuel efficiency measures being taken by merchant ships worldwide, “will proportionately deliver far more ambitious CO2 reductions than the pledges so far made by governments”.

A recent UN report suggests that governments’ commitments overall should reduce CO2 emissions per capita by 5% in 2030 compared to 2010.

The ICS says “shipping has already reduced its total CO2 emissions by more than 10% (2007- 2012) despite continuing growth in maritime trade, and reduced CO2 per tonne of cargo transported one kilometre (tonne-km being a comparable metric to emissions per capita) by around 20% in the past 10 years.

“For the future, IMO rules already adopted require all ships built after 2025 to be at least 30% more fuel efficient. As its contribution to the United Nations 2 degree centigrade climate change goal, shipping is committed to reducing CO2 per tonne-km by at least 50% before 2050.”

The ICS considers comments that measures being taken by shipping somehow fall short of what is required to achieve the 2 degree goal, misunderstand the approach “already agreed at the UN negotiations regarding the obligations of different sectors of the global economy.

“The UNFCCC recognises that developed and developing nations should accept differing CO2 reduction commitments. International shipping is no different, especially in view of its vital role in the movement of about 90% of global trade.”

The ICS recently commented on the suggestion of a carbon charge for shipping made by the International Transport Forum, a think-tank affiliated to the OECD.

The Chamber questioned why international shipping should accept a carbon price of $US25 per tonne of CO2, as proposed by the ITF.

“While shipping may currently have CO2 emissions comparable to a major OECD economy, it is inappropriate for the ITF to propose that the industry should be treated like an OECD economy” ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe said.

ICS also says that the ITF is incorrect to state that a proposal by the Marshall Islands to discuss the development of a CO2 reduction target for shipping “was not acted upon within the IMO”.

The issue was placed on the agenda of the next IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee, and will be debated fully by IMO in April 2016, taking account of the outcome of the UN Climate Conference in Paris.

IMO discussions on Market Based Measures were halted in 2013.
 The ICS says its position remains that if IMO Member States should decide to adopt a shipping MBM, the industry’s clear preference is for a fuel levy, rather than an emissions trading scheme or other complex alternatives that would distort global shipping markets. However, if a levy was developed by IMO, ICS believes that any money collected should be proportionate to international shipping’s share of the world’s total CO2 emissions (2.2% in 2012 compared to 2.8% in 2007), not the 26 billion dollars a year suggested by the ITF.