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China, EU Bolster Greener Global Shipping to Curb Emissions

The trillion-dollar global shipping industry may soon be forced to curb greenhouse gas emissions under new rules backed by the European Union and China.

Over 200 representatives convened last week at the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations shipping supervisor based in London, to discuss regulations that could turn their industry, currently responsible for as much as 3 percent of the world's emissions, into a zero-carbon operation by the second half of the century.

The shift toward clean power was prompted by the Paris climate agreement, as well as the threat of regional rules being considered by the EU and tested in China. Europe has proposed a plan to add ship emissions to its trading system by 2023 if the IMO talks don't succeed. China is piloting a similar program that includes Shanghai’s ports and shipping industry.

The EU proposal “sets a deadline for the IMO to introduce a target and measures,” said Sotiris Raptis, senior adviser to the European Sea Ports Organization and former EU parliamentary adviser. “But it’s a global industry, it’s difficult to regulate emissions generated outside of the jurisdiction.”

Imposing emissions would close a loophole left by the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Ship engines almost always burn heavy fuel oil, one of the dirtiest and cheapest forms of energy. IMO members will return to discuss their strategy and level of ambition in October. An agreement could be drafted by next year and implemented in 2023.

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