‘Flawed’ Commission proposal on ship emissions gains ground in Parliament


The first of three crucial votes on the European Commission’s proposal on monitoring maritime emissions took place yesterday (9 January) in the industry, research and energy (ITRE) committee of the European Parliament.  

With 24 votes in favour and 14 against, the energy committee’s members backed the EU executive’s draft legislation despite warnings from experts that the proposal was too weak.

The environmental consultancy CE Delft, published a report yesterday (9 January) that took a more detailed look into the elements contained in the Commission’s proposal on the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of carbon dioxide emissions from ships. It came to the conclusion that by using more advanced monitoring methods, ships could both save millions of euros and be more friendly to the environment.

>> Read: Stricter shipping emission controls could save industry €9 million: study

Although the study is based on a small sample of ships that use automated technologies rather than bunker delivery notes (which can often be illegible or get lost and have a higher manpower cost), the consultants and a majority of green campaigners consider that the Commission’s impact assessment should take advanced technologies more into account.

The study found that ship owners could save up to €9 million by adopting more advanced monitoring methods. Those methods also help monitoring other types of emissions besides CO2, such as sulphur, for which international limits will enter into force in 2015.

Following the vote in the ITRE committee, Aoife O’Leary of the NGO Transport and Environment said that the vote “wrongly backs archaic fuel sales receipts, which has been the common practice for the past century and is not fit for purpose as an accurate emissions monitoring system.”

Over the coming month, two other expert committees will have to make their positions known through a vote on the issue. NGOs are urging them “to help shippers join the 21st century and ensure only accurate monitoring methods that enable fuel-saving measures are allowed".

The environment committee will vote on the proposal in February. The lawmaker in charge of the dossier, Theodoros Skylakakis (Greece, ALDE), told EURACTIV he believed smaller ships should also be included. The current proposal includes only ships with a gross tonnage larger than 5,000.

Skylakakis would like to ensure balance between coverage of emissions and the implementation costs and administrative burden for all stakeholders.

Commission defends its proposal

While the energy committee was voting on the draft legislation, the Green political group in the European Parliament was holding a conference on the topic today (9 January), at which the Commission was invited to present its views.

Heiko Kunst from the Commission's climate directorate (DG Clima) defended his institution’s proposal, stressing that it is “not easy to make such a proposal in the current political conditions, unfavourable to environmental regulations.”

He explained that the Commission had focused on carbon dioxide emissions because they are “predominant […] although no exact figures are available currently.”

The maritime sector is currently the only transport industry in the EU that has is not legally obliged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and many environmental campaigners would like to see the EU move towards market based measures (MBM), similar to what exists for other transport modes.

But Kunst said that MRV is the first necessary step before moving to MBM.

“For MBM we need to know how much ships are emitting […] MRV is needed in any case, let’s implement it.”

The Commission proposes to monitor the CO2 emissions from large ships calling in or out of EU ports regardless of their flag, it excludes small ships and special ships such as military ones for which some of the data needed to monitor emissions is too sensitive to be disclosed.

Kunst concluded by “congratulating the international partners” of the EU in the maritime sector, calling them “more constructive than other sectors”. In the aviation sector, the EU faces massive opposition from third countries to implement its emissions trading scheme.

The European Commission proposed a regulation in June 2013 which will require owners of large ships using EU ports to monitor and report the ships' annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Emissions from the international maritime transport sector today account for 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 4% of EU GHG emissions. Without action they are expected to increase significantly in the future, in line with expected increases in trade volumes between all continents.

Such growth would undermine efforts being undertaken in other sectors to reduce the EU's overall GHG emissions.

  • 21 January: Vote on the Commission's proposal in the EP's Transport Committee
  • 12 February: Vote on the Commission's proposal in the EP's Environment Committee

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