Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Container Shipping Giants Speak Out on Vessel Emissions as COP23 Closes

Ocean Freight Industry Needs to Step Up
Shipping News Feature
DENMARK – WORLDWIDE – Transport and logistics behemoth, Maersk has taken a stance against the current actions the global maritime industry are taking to tackle the detrimental affect the shipping sector has on the environment, as the ocean freight container giant's Chief Advisor on Climate Change, John Kornerup Bang, argued that shipping must show more ambition to reduce pollution attributed to the industry, and called upon the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to do more to address the issues of vessel emissions.

As world leaders talked climate change solutions at COP23 in Bonn for 12 days this month the maritime industry edged closer to determining shipping’s fair share of reducing carbon emissions. Raising the ambition for global regulation remains crucial to ensure the maritime sector’s contribution to reach the Paris Agreement goal of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.

90% of global trade travels by sea, and without international shipping, the modern world wouldn’t be able to exchange goods at a level that creates economic opportunities for a growing population. However, it remains a global challenge to boost growth and trade while reducing the impacts of climate change. While shipping is often the most efficient way of moving goods over long distances, Maersk believes the industry must step up its efforts to pollute less.

The maritime industry emitted close to 1,000 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012, representing about 2.2% of global CO2 emissions. Depending on future development, this could rise to 15% by 2050, according to a 2016 study by the Danish Shipowner’s Association (DSA) and UCL Energy Institute.

Kornerup Bang says that the COP23 represented another clear-cut opportunity to take negotiations further and raise the bar for the commitment of shipping in 2018 and beyond, citing the IMO assessment which claims that the industry can improve efficiency by up to 75% through operational measures and current technology. He continued:

”Achieving it demands a higher level of ambition than outlined in the current roadmap for 2017–2023, based on both technical, operational and economic measures – without punishing early movers and with clear incentives to develop new solutions.

“As a company, we are reaching a point where it will be more and more challenging to drive significant reductions on our own. Efficiency measures are drying out and it’s an industry challenge to drive the needed innovation in new propulsion technologies. More than ever, we need global regulation to ensure a level playing field and a transition with the biggest possible environmental impact.”

The Maersk executive says the global agreement from COP21 in Paris which entered into force in 2016 failed to include the shipping industry. The sector needs to decarbonise at the same pace as the rest of the economy and contribute with its ‘fair share’ of CO2 reductions to achieve the global goal of staying below that 2°C temperature rise. Global regulation remains a key driver in realising this ambition.

Since COP21, the pressure has been on the IMO to determine the long-term commitment of the shipping industry. In the build-up to COP22 in Marrakech, the members of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) agreed on a data collection system to map emissions and a roadmap for a strategy on how to reduce them and when. This marked an important milestone in the regulation process. Now COP23 has produced the ‘Ocean Pathway’ which hopefully will translate the targets discussed for sustainable transport into action.

Lately, the pressure on IMO has only been reinforced by the European Union’s decision to leave the regulation of shipping emissions to that body until 2023. However, Maersk would have preferred to see more progress during an intense week of negotiations at the latest IMO GHG intersessional meeting in October this year, particularly on the level of ambition. Bang continued:

”Nevertheless, we remain encouraged by the ambitious statements made by many member states and industry organisations. This gives us confidence that IMO will reach an agreement at its next meeting in 2018, including concrete measures. COP23 provides a solid platform to take discussions further. The initial strategy is coming up in 2018, and it must include a clear specification of a long-term ambition level for greenhouse gas reductions. UNFCCC should sustain the IMO mandate to regulate CO2 emissions from shipping, urge early progress and include market-based mechanisms.”

The DSA study shows that emissions may have to peak no later than 2025 and reach as low as 400 megatonnes by 2050. It is therefore crucial that IMO moves beyond data collection and establishes an ambitious and accelerated process to determine shipping’s ‘fair share’ of emissions which will allow for subsequent definitions of long-term targets and market-based mechanisms.

Since 2007, Maersk Line has reduced CO2 emissions per container moved by 42%. For several years, Maersk, and many of the other container carriers, have made improvements from network design and speed optimisation to technical upgrades and new and more efficient ships. The giant ships however can only claim to be efficient in the true sense as long as they carry a decent complement of freight every trip. Running these giants half empty makes them more, not less expensive.

There have been giant strides made by the freight lines but slow steaming is now the order of the day rather than the exception. It is important that the ocean freight carrying community act together with vessel sharing agreements and the like, whilst steering a path through the international regulators which must recognise that sometimes one man’s cartel is another’s practical business practice.