Global shipping industry to push CO2 progress at key meeting

Groups representing the global shipping industry are calling on member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to seriously consider a joint industry submission on pushing progress on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The move – in advance of next week’s 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 70) at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London – represents a unified response from the shipping industry to the Paris Agreement on climate change that came into force on 5 October.

‘Shipping,’ in this context, refers to the transportation of cargo by sea.

global shipping industry
If goods normally moved by container ships were to be shipped by the next most efficient mode of transport – rail – it could more than double associated CO2 emissions. Image: World Shipping Council.

The appeal comes in a statement by BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and the World Shipping Council.

Between them, these large commercial associations – who refer to themselves as the co-sponsors of the joint industry submission – claim to represent the global shipping industry.

Their joint industry submission paper – titled “Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships” – calls on IMO member states to:

– finalize the adoption of a global CO2 data collection system and associated IMO guidelines for international shipping

– agree to develop a roadmap – with a completion timeline – for reducing shipping’s CO2 emissions, which currently accounts for about 2.2 percent of global CO2 emissions

– consider a number of points when determining a “fair share contribution on behalf of the sector.”

The co-sponsors say such steps would build on the existing IMO mandatory agreement – that came into force worldwide in 2013 – concerning technical and operational measures to reduce shipping’s CO2 emissions.

Fairshare contribution issues

The submission highlights some of the challenges the global shipping industry faces in reducing CO2 emissions and thus the careful consideration the IMO must give to formulating a fair share contribution.

For instance, whereas many land-based industrial and transportation sectors have been able to switch to low carbon energy sources, the shipping industry is likely to remain dependent of fossil fuels for several more decades.

On the plus side, however, the submission paper points out that shipping is already – by far – the most energy-efficient commercial transport system. Thus, any shift from less efficient transport modes to shipping would of itself be contributing to reduction in global CO2 emissions.

This also means, however, that any shifts in the other direction – to less energy-efficient transport modes – could be counterproductive.

Figures from the World Shipping Council give some stark examples of the huge increases in CO2 emissions that would result if goods normally transported by container ships were to be shipped by alternative means:

– If goods normally transported by container ships were to move by the next most efficient mode – rail – this could more than double associated CO2 emissions, or

– If the 1.3 billion tons of cargo that container ships transported by sea in 2008 were to be shipped by air instead, this would increase CO2 emissions by 4,700 percent.

Thus, the joint submission pushes the point that any “opportunity to switch from land and air based transport modes to shipping should be encouraged.”

The co-sponsors say they are united in urging MEPC 70 to consider the submission and agree a timeline for next steps. This way, the IMO can make a positive report to the next UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP 22) in Marrakesh that starts on 7 November. They declare that:

“The industry’s submission to MEPC 70 is intended to demonstrate that shipping is responding responsibly to global climate change, and that IMO is the only competent authority for addressing shipping’s CO2 emissions.”

Video – Logistics