EU targets air pollution with tightened shipping rules

By RTCC Staff

The EU’s strict new controls on sulphur emissions from shipping fuel come into force today.

The current limit on sulphur content of 3.5% will be rolled back to 0.5% by 2020. Without the changes, shipping would be responsible for more of the region’s sulphur emissions than all its land-based sources put together.

In addition to limiting acid rain causing sulphur output, it will also reduce the amount of particulate matter in the air, tiny particles that can have serious health impacts.

“Improving air quality is a long-standing environmental challenge. It has taken some time but now the maritime sector is engaged,” said Janez Potočnik, Environment Commissioner.

Sulphur Dioxide emissions from EU shipping would equal all land sources by 2020 with action. (Source: Flickr/Tom Turner/SeaTeam Images)

“The big winners are the European citizens who will breathe cleaner air and enjoy a healthier life and industry supplying clean fuels and technology.”

Shipping fuels can have a sulphur concentration up to 5000 times higher than those for lorries and trucks.

Although sulphur dioxide is not a greenhouse gas, the addition of EU-wide shipping regulations could signal the bloc’s plans to legislate the shipping sector to cuts its climate altering emissions.

Efforts are currently under way through the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to find a financial mechanism to incentivise reduced emissions. The EU had been considering establishing its own regional system in response to frustration with efforts through the IMO, but has backed down.

It is thought that carbon levies on EU shipping alone could be worth $10bn a year. The Green Climate fund, the principle tool for aggregating climate aid has set itself a target of raising $100bn annually from 2020 onwards.

Funds from both the shipping and aviation sector are considered to be a promising potential source of climate finance with the IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) developing plans for their respective industries.

Negotiations have been controversial and too slow for some with the EU recently establishing, and then winding down, an international carbon trading scheme applicable to all flights using airports in the region.

It has given ICAO one year to conclude its own system or it will once again include all airlines.

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