Conservation groups are urging the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to set strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the global shipping fleet as it begins deliberations in London today. Ships are credited with releasing more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. There are only five countries that out-rank the global shipping fleet in carbon dioxide emissions – the shipping industry releases more carbon dioxide than Germany, and nearly as much as Japan according to IMO reports.
“Shipping could account for about 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions globally by 2050 if restrictions are not put in place,” said John Kaltenstein, clean vessels program manager at Friends of the Earth. “The IMO has been tasked with this issue for 12 years. The time to act decidedly is now.”
Rather than relying on voluntary measures or measurement schemes, limits on global warming pollution must be created, and ships must be held accountable for meeting them.
"Voluntary approaches will not get the job done,” said David Marshall, senior counsel for the Clean Air Task Force. “Mandatory emission reduction targets and measures to achieve them, along with economic instruments that limit emissions from the shipping sector, must be required."
To date, most IMO discussions addressing greenhouse gas emissions from ships have centered on the development of voluntary efficiency design and operational measures, without setting goals or standards to actually require efficiency improvements and emission reductions. However, several proposals have been submitted to the IMO in advance of today’s meeting that will require or incentivize actual reductions.
In particular, the U.S. has submitted a proposal that would require all ships to reduce emissions by improving efficiency in order to meet targets within designated time-frames. Such improvements would lead to reduced fuel use and operating costs (fuel is the major operating cost of a typical ship), as well as pollution reductions. The IMO also will be discussing a number of proposals to apply market-based measures to the shipping industry; such measures, such as a levy on bunker fuel or an emissions trading scheme, have the potential to reduce shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“Just measuring the amount of global warming pollution coming from ships is too little, too late,” said Jacqueline Savitz, senior campaign director at Oceana. “Ships are a major source of the problem and just like other sources, emissions need to be reduced. The tools are available, they are cost effective, and we simply have no more time to waste.”