responsible for setting global environmental standards for shipping approved rules designed to curb the industry’s carbon emissions,
triggering criticism that its measures won’t do enough to help tackle climate
About 90% of the
world’s physical trade is moved by ship, and the sector spews about as much CO2
into the atmosphere as Germany and France combined. On last
Tuesday, the International Maritime Organization approved rules aimed at
cleaning up the industry by improving vessels’ carbon efficiency.
Some countries and non-government organizations said
the measures were inconsistent with the Paris Agreement. The IMO’s much more ambitious target — to halve shipping’s outright emissions by 2050 — wasn’t a central part of the discussions.
The new rules “will never take us anywhere near the
absolute reductions that we need to achieve by 2050,” said Maria Skipper
Schwenn, executive director at DanskeRederier, which represents Danish
shipping, adding that the regulations are a stumbling block for a real
transition to carbon neutrality because they don’t reward ships for performing
Tuesday’s measures were
officially aimed at hitting a 40% reduction in carbon intensity by
2030, the IMO’s shorter term target. Since the goal’s baseline year of 2008,
ships have gotten bigger, better designed and slowed down, meaning much of the
required savings have already been achieved. The industry was already on track
to hit the 2030 target, according to Tristan Smith of the UCL Energy Institute.
The far bigger challenge
is shipping’s outright emissions. As the world’s fleet grows to service
ballooning international trade, having more efficient vessels won’t necessarily
be enough to bring CO2 down.
To keep to the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario,
man-made CO2 output needs to almost halve, versus 2010, by 2030. The IMO
isn’t targeting an outright cut by then, though it is due to revise its
strategy in coming years.
Tuesday’s agreement “will
not set shipping CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement
goals,” Transport & Environment, a nonprofit, said in a statement.
The U.K. and Germany
were among at least half a dozen countries that criticized the measures.
Hitting the IMO’s plan
for a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will require much of the
world’s fleet to switch to zero-emission fuels that don’t yet exist
at a commercial scale. Making the transition will cost more than a trillion
dollars, according to the Global Maritime Forum. Strong regulatory incentives
are needed to drive that investment.
Not everyone seems
willing to wait for the IMO to legislate. Next year, the European Union is due
to propose rules to put a price on emissions from shipping, likely by bringing
maritime transport into its emissions trading scheme. It may have the
support of the world’s biggest operator of refined fuel carriers, Maersk
The firm supports a
global carbon tax, an approach that’s favored by commodities trading giant
Trafigura Group. But if the IMO can’t make that happen, Maersk Tankers earlier
said it would support the EU’s proposal.
“If the choice is
between having nothing and having EU ETS, I support EU ETS,” said Christian M.
Ingerslev, chief executive of the company, which is separate from transport
firm A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, in an interview last week. “If you sit there and
wait for the perfect solution, you risk going nowhere.”
Chamber of Shipping, which represents more than 80% of the world’s merchant
fleet, opposes regional regulation, as do fellow industry trade
groups BIMCO and Intercargo.