The Commission must push for green transition in shipping

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Shipping emissions contribute to global warming. [Avigator Fortuner / Shutterstock.com]

We cannot stop shipping. So EU institutions and industry must work together to find solutions that will drastically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, write Tiemo Wölken and Pernille Weiss.

Tiemo Wölken is a German MEP in the S&D group, Pernille Weiss is a Danish MEP in the European People’s Party.

Do you ever wonder how your avocado ends up in the supermarket, your medical mask reaches the pharmacy or your pair of jeans ended up in the store where you bought them?

The answer is quite simple. Maritime transportation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this source of transportation showed vital when supplying the whole world with everything from food to medicine. This is an extremely important sector in our daily lives and for trade between countries and continents shipping is often the eco-friendly way of transportation.

But it does not come without problems. Maritime transport emits approx. 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually. It is about 2.5 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. If the sector was a country, it would be the 6th biggest emitter in the world.

This is a problem we must deal with. Now.

We cannot stop shipping; we still need our daily goods. Instead, we all need to collaborate. The European Parliament, the European Commission, and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) all need to work together to find and adopt solutions that will drastically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

We need an agreement in the IMO that international shipping reaching zero GHG emissions by 2050 is essential to keep the Paris Agreement temperature goals within reach, and we need this agreement immediately to pave the way for agreement on an international carbon price and to make progress on decarbonisation of shipping.

Therefore, it is worrying that the Commission and the member states shy away from a resolution to avoid becoming unpopular with those who oppose a more ambitious target.

It is necessary that especially the European Commission takes the lead and pushes for EU member states to collaborate to achieve an ambitious global agreement that sharply reduces the emission of greenhouse gases.

Reaching consensus among all of UN members is of course a difficult task. Nevertheless, we should at least pursue this as a desired goal for the EU.

One of the things we need to address is the urgency of the transmission to new fuels in the maritime industry.

We have to make sure that we choose an approach so that we do not exclude good ideas and solutions, but keep all sustainable options on the table. We need to ensure enough funds are put into R&D for the new sustainable technologies to develop.

Secondly, we need to look at the full life-cycle perspective when we are evaluating which fuels are truly clean including how they are produced. It is important that we do not encourage zero carbon fuels if they come from carbon-intensive sources.

In order to make this transition to renewable fuels as smooth as possible, it is imperative to limit the price gap between fossil and new fuels. For this to happen, we need the states at the IMO to reach an agreement on an ambitious market-based tool to close the price gap. The shipping industry can no longer sail under the radar.

The Commission’s proposal to include maritime transport into the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) is a step in the right direction.  It is important that the re-designing of the ETS rewards first-movers for taking action and leading the way.

In addition, we need the money from the maritime ETS to stay within the maritime sector to support investments into energy efficiency and innovative infrastructure, such as zero emissions fuels and green ports, and to protect marine ecosystems from global heating, acidification and other pressures on biodiversity.

We further need international coordination for the necessary certification and supply of zero emission fuels worldwide. Here, the Clydebank Declaration from COP26 is a welcomed first step in this direction, but now the EU has to lead by example.

These measures will have a big impact on the emission of greenhouse gases from maritime transportation. We cannot do without the shipping of our goods. But we can act now to make a difference for a cleaner and greener future on our planet.

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