Shipping emissions should be included in UK carbon budgets

Nordby Maersk Ship travelling through the water

(Source: Maersk)

By RTCC Staff

Shipping emissions should be included in the UK’s overall carbon reduction strategy, according to an influential body that advises the British government.

The Committee for Climate Change has reported that that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime industry could amount to as much as 11% of the UK’s Carbon Budget, as agreed under the 2008 Climate Change Act – and warns that this level is too large to be ignored.

Proposals to cut shipping and airline emissions are expected to be high on the agenda during COP17 in Durban. They were avoided during previous UN negotiations as it is difficult to work out which countries are directly responsible for these discharges.

Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Currently shipping and aviation are excluded from the targets, but the Act stipulates Parliament must make a decision on whether to include the two industries by the end of 2012.

The Committee call for the UK government to include the emissions from shipping in their 2050 targets, but warn this will mean harsher cuts on other industries including motoring and electricity generatation.

Shipping currently accounts for between 12 and 16 MtCO2 – based upon half of all emissions from ships leaving and arriving at British docks, with the other half coming from the country at the other end of the journey.

David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the CCC said: “Our report highlights the degree of uncertainty over current and future shipping emissions and the need to resolve this. However, it is clear that shipping emissions could well be significant and so cannot be ignored – they should be included under the Climate Change Act.”

The CCC report sets out three alternative recommendations for the government:

  • Including shipping emissions in the 2050 target and budgets immediately.
  • Including them when an accurate methodology has been made.
  • Including them in the target now and in the carbon budgets only when progress has been made on methodology.

The committee will put its formal recommendation on shipping and aviation to the government next year.

Global Agreement

The report says there are many ways for shipping to cut emissions including improving fuel efficiency, deploying sails, improving the efficiency of the routes used and the speed travelled at or implementing additional energy sources including solar, wind or biomass.

Earlier this year, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) came up with a series of energy efficiency targets for new ships, but the CCC believe there is scope to reduce emissions further.

The report argues that to reduce economy-wide costs for abatement, the government should be arguing for international policies going beyond what the IMO has currently agreed, such as including international shipping within an emissions trading or carbon tax scheme.

Set to be a hot topic at the forthcoming climate conference in Durban, the CCC believes an international deal could be done through the IMO or the UNFCCC, but if an agreement can not be met this year, it urges the UK government to work with the EU towards inclduing international shipping under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The UK Chamber of Shipping, which worked with the CCC on its analysis, welcomes the report but highlights the need for any such trading or tax scheme to be done at a global level.

David Balston, Director Safety & Environment at the UK Chamber of Shipping said; “We do stress that 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 United Kingdom.”

Read the full Committee on Climate Change Report here.

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