During the build up the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen global fossil fuel emissions have been more intensely scrutinized across all industry sectors.
Over the last few months, during the build up the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, global fossil fuel emissions have been more intensely scrutinized across all industry sectors, writes Del Redvers, Head of Sustainability at BMT.
Shipping will soon be forced to pay for its carbon emissions. Evidence shows that global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) have increased markedly as a result of human activities. A review of research published in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that world temperatures could rise by between 1.1 and 6.4°C by the end of this century.
International shipping is the most carbon efficient mode of commercial transport per ton of cargo carried but with 80% of worldwide cargo transported by ship, total emissions are equivalent to those of a major national economy. In the face of rising global emissions and increasing pressure from legislators, we must make a real commitment to set and deliver low carbon shipping targets by adopting new technologies, practices and business models that minimise and mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2007 shipping accounted for 3.3% of all global CO2 emissions but thus far, due to the cross boundary nature and a lack of methodology for measurement, shipping emissions have been omitted from international climate change agreements. However, although not necessarily as a direct consequence of COP15, it is clear that shipping will soon be forced to pay for its carbon emissions. Indeed the EU has set the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) a deadline of 31 December 2011 to establish an appropriate mechanism to manage shipping emissions or those relating to Europe will be brought under an EU led regional programme.
In addition to legislative drivers, shipping is also starting to feel the pressure from its customers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which could significantly impact the industry"s business model. For many corporations, such as the major retailers and manufacturers, shipping is a quantifiable and manageable part of their product"s carbon footprints and they are looking for reductions. The debate about who ultimately owns and therefore should pay for these emissions will continue long after any market based mechanism for reduction has been implemented. As shipping is the lifeblood of international commerce, any emission targets will have a direct impact on global trade.
Although there are efficiency savings and a whole host of economic and reputational benefits that a move towards low carbon shipping can provide, some parts of the shipping industry, historically slow to react, are still to be convinced. Even though COP15 might not have forced the shipping industry to embrace sustainability, the legislative drivers and commercial pressures can no longer be ignored.
The IMO has developed three tools to reduce emissions associated with shipping. These are the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), the Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI) and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEMP). Together they encourage energy efficiency in both the design and operation of vessels. However, they do not provide sufficient mitigation for the enormous volume of carbon dioxide from shipping, nor do they provide future caps for emissions.
There is always some resistance to carbon regulation in any industry facing additional costs. Shipping has debated the merits of various market based instruments but whatever mechanism is applied to internalise the cost of carbon, it must include a progressively lower emissions cap, not just an aspirational target, if it is to work.
Managing the emissions from shipping requires reliable of data. This is best gained from real-time ship performance monitoring and analysis tools which continuously record ship speed, fuel consumption, stack emissions, location and other parameters in order to present trends over time.
In all climate change negotiations the solutions must be equitable and just, but the urgency of our situation demands practical action sooner rather than later and the smartest shipping companies are leading by example and not waiting for the legislation.