Maritime transport to cut emissions by half in 2050
The maritime transport sector has to cut emissions at least by 50% by 2050, compared to 2008, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), part of the United Nations, has decided in London last week. Without measures emissions are expected to increase by 50 to 250%.
After years of discussion 173 countries, including Belgium, voted in favour of the new targets. Belgium, although a small country with only 60 km of coast line, is concerned too with the world’s largest crude oil tanker company Euronav, for instance.
The United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia voted against. The targets are a compromise. The European Union would rather have seen a 70 to 100% reduction compared to 2008.
Crucial first step
This is a reference year because the year before the crisis world trade was at its highest peak. Today worldwide maritime transport emits as much CO2 as a country like Germany. According to the South Korean IMO secretary-general, Kitack Lam, this target isn’t a final goal, “but a crucial first step”.
Like the aviation sector, ocean shipping was kept out of the Paris’ climate agreements for limiting the warming of the climate to 2° Celcius compared to the pre-industrial era. Both are sectors that are cross-border by nature and difficult to regulate.
Carbon tax for airplane passengers
The aviation sector decided two years ago to no longer have emissions rising by 2020 and to compensate extra emissions by investing in emission reducing measures elsewhere. Sweden is one of the first countries to have passengers pay a carbon tax since the beginning of this month.
Question is what the maritime sector can do on the short-term. One option is to have the ships sail at slower speeds on certain trajectories. That would reduce energy use an emissions. But it would require refrigeration systems to run longer to keep produce fresh.
Arcitc routes opening up
One of the ‘welcome’ side effects of global warming for ocean shipping is that ice caps are melting and the level of the seas is rising. This creates new possibilities for ocean shipping to use routes in arctic waters, shortening distance and time and thus also energy use and emissions significantly…
On the long-term a transition to other forms of energy to replace the heavily pollution burning of heavy fuel is unavoidable. Hydrogen, gas, ammonium and bio-fuels are mentioned as possibilities and battery-powered electric ships for shorter trajectories.
But as ships have a typical live cycle of more than 20 years, this will take time and a compensation system to have ‘cheap fuel ships’ pay for competing with expensive hydrogen ships, for instance. There is still a lot to discuss…