The second IMO greenhouse-gas study was debated by shipping industry representatives yesterday (18 May) in an attempt to assess how shipping emissions could be handled in the Kyoto Protocol's successor, set to be agreed upon in Copenhagen in December. It warns that if maritime emissions continue unabated, they could rise by between 150 and 250% by 2050.
IMO identifies "significant potential for reducing GHGs through technical and operational measures," including efficiency improvements. It states that the shipping sector could reduce emissions by 25% to 75% below current levels, with significant financial gain for industries.
The report suggests a number of market-based policy instruments which it deems to have a "high environmental effectiveness". These include upgrades to ship design, speed reductions, maritime emissions trading and a bunker fuel levy.
"Many of these measures appear to be cost-effective, although non-financial barriers may discourage their implementation," the report says.
Shipping was not part of the Kyoto Protocol, nor does it have any emissions reduction obligations under EU law, despite accounting for 2.7% of global CO2 emissions. In comparison, the share of international aviation is only 1.9%, and the sector will be included in the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) from 2012 (EurActiv 02/02/09).
Environmentalists see the IMO report as compelling evidence that shipping must come under the emissions cap in the Copenhagen agreement in order to halt global warming.
"Until now, the shipping industry has managed to avoid the high levels of public scrutiny that the aviation sector has faced," said Peter Lockley, head of transport policy at WWF UK. "This report confirms that shipping is a substantial source of emissions, but also demonstrates that the industry has nothing to fear from joining the global climate regime, and could actually make financial gains if it gets serious about addressing its carbon emissions," he added.
Should the Copenhagen agreement fail to include global maritime emissions and if no international reduction targets are agreed through the IMO, the EU plans to include the sector in its overall emissions reduction target.