Thu 14 Feb 2008 – The scale of CO2 emissions from shipping is almost three times higher than previously estimated and is nearly twice as much as caused by aviation, according to a leaked UN report seen by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
The report, drafted by a team of international scientists, revises previous estimates that emissions from shipping amounted to 400 million tonnes of CO2 annually, or 1.8% of total global emissions, and calculates the true figure is now 1.21 billion tonnes, or nearly 4.5% of world emissions. The aviation industry is currently estimated to emit 650 million tonnes of CO2, or 2% of the global total.
By 2020, shipping will be responsible for nearly 6% of global emissions, forecasts the report.
Whereas the aviation industry has been at the top of the climate change agenda, says the Guardian article, and is expected to be included in the EU’s emissions trading scheme, emissions from ships, which emit twice as much CO2 as planes, have gone relatively unnoticed. There are no plans currently by the EU to include shipping in the scheme and shipping emissions have not been included in national or international discussions on climate change.
Part of the problem is the rapid growth in the shipping industry, which now carries more than 90% of the world’s trade by volume and has tripled its tonnage carried since 1970. The shift of industrial production away from the US and Europe to China and south Asia has also meant cargoes have to travel further. Not only has the world fleet grown in numbers, ships have got larger in size.
Shipping is also responsible for the increased use of heavy polluting low-quality ‘bunker’ fuels that are cheaper but are rich in air pollutants like sulphur, the main component of acid rain and haze, and which pose a serious threat to human health. Bunker fuel is the residue of the world’s oil refineries, basically waste oil, that is 60% less expensive than cleaner oils, and demand has soared as a consequence. The report says that sulphur dioxide emissions from ships now stand at 16.2 million tonnes a year and are expected to increase by 40% to 22.7 million tonnes by 2020.
It is estimated that particulate matter pollution from shipping accounts for 60,000 deaths a year.
In a response to the article, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, said both governments and the shipping industry have been engaged for some time in a process that will lead to the reduction of harmful atmospheric emissions from ships, and that process is now entering its final stages. The IMO is working on the development of a CO2 Emission Indexing Scheme, a CO2 emission baseline and technical, operational and market-based methods to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, many elements of which are also planned to be finalized by this coming October.
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