Shipping emissions should be targeted

4th November 2011

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  • Transport ,
  • EU ,
  • Carbon Trading ,
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  • Mitigation



Carbon dioxide produced by UK shipping firms should be included in the country's 2050 target to cut emissions by 80%, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

In its first detailed analysis of emissions from the UK’s shipping sector, the CCC estimates it produces 12–16 million tonnes of CO2 a year, and by 2050 could account for 11% of the country’s carbon output.

Currently emissions from the shipping and aviation sectors are not included in the country’s legally-binding carbon reduction targets, but under the Climate Change Act the government must decide by the end of 2012 whether to incorporate the sectors in the carbon budgets moving forward.

With emissions from shipping likely to be significant contributor the country’s carbon footprint in future, the CCC argues that failing to consider the sector in wider targets goes against the UK’s overall climate change strategy.

“Their exclusion leaves a part of UK emissions not fully accounted for and is inconsistent with the UK’s commitment to play its role in meeting appropriate global climate objectives,” wrote Lord Turner, chair of the CCC, in his introduction to the report.

Although the CCC suggests including shipping emissions in both the 2050 target and in future carbon budgets, it does concede that a delay maybe necessary until a more accurate way of assessing CO2 output from the sector has been developed.

In its report, the commission urges the government to work with the rest of the EU and industry in order to gain access to information from ship operators on their fuel use.

The commission also concludes that emissions from the sector can be reduced but that action is needed at both the regional and international levels.

“There is significant scope for emissions reduction in shipping … [that] goes well beyond the ambition targeted by the Energy Efficiency Design Index which was recently agreed by the International Maritime Organisation,” states the report.

“New international policies with stronger incentives – for example, a cap and trade scheme or a carbon tax – are required to provide more confidence that the full abatement potential will be delivered.”

The UK Chamber of Shipping welcomed the report, but argues that the introduction of such measures should be done globally through the International Maritime Organisation.

“Any solution must be global rather than regional to avoid distorting world trade and potentially damaging an industry that is vital to the future prosperity of the UK,” said David Balston, director safety and environment at the UK Chamber of Shipping.

Meanwhile, David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, urged the government to take action.

“It is clear that there is scope to reduce emissions… In order to ensure this, the government should proactively support development of new policies aimed at encouraging investment in cleaner shipping technologies and more efficient operational practices.”

The CCC’s report, which will be followed up in March 2012 with more detailed advice to government on the inclusion of aviation and shipping in its carbon reduction goals, was published as the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) stepped up its campaign against the inclusion of airlines from outside the bloc being included in the EU emissions trading scheme from January.

At a meeting held on 2 November, 26 members of ICAO, including China and the US, voted in favour of challenging the move, despite a senior advisor to the European Court of Justice concluding last month that the plans do not contravene international law.


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