The way forward after COP 21

By Knut Fleckenstein, MEP (pictured)
Autumn 2016

The goals are ambitious: The commitment the EU has made in Paris at the COP 21 of lowering the greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 goes beyond the objectives of the 2011 White Paper on transport. Achieving the White Paper's objectives would mean that emissions from international waterborne transport would only be 9.5% below the 1990 level in 2050.

Whereas maritime transport produces less emissions than other transport modes, growing transport volumes have led to a substantial increase in emissions over the past decades. As the volumes are expected to keep growing, it is clear that the environmental foot print has to be reduced considerably.

We need a comprehensive approach that does not only focus on ports but the whole transport system and that includes all stakeholders along the logistic chain. Shipping is of major strategic importance for the EU's economy. Therefore we need to strike the challenging balance between pushing for a greener framework and safeguarding the sector's competitiveness.

Yes, progress in the IMO is sometimes painfully slow, but I am still convinced that it is the right setting to deal with environmental issues. Unilateral decisions by the EU risk not to be implemented or to shift the competitive edge of our industry elsewhere. Take ETS and aviation for instance, we are just moving from one "stop the clock" to the next.

Discussions for developing a marketbased measure for aviation are underway on the international level. Concerning the maritime sector, he EU as well as its individual member states need to be strong players within the IMO and push for progress there. Slow but inclusive progress can be worth more than unilateral attempts, which are bound to fail.

There are some policy areas however, where the EU can and should act in order to improve efficiency and lower emissions. Maritime transport and rail are two modes, which are considerably better for the environment than road transport. Yet, the major volumes are still transported by road.

In order to facilitate and push for a modal shift towards short sea shipping and inland shipping, we need a fully functioning internal market for shipping. In contrast to the other transport modes, there are many barriers and custom formalities that put shipping at a disadvantage vis à vis other modes.

On the other hand, the ports themselves are undertaking many efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Especially for ports located in populated areas, this is not only essential for the environment itself, but also for the acceptance of the port by the inhabitants. In all aspects of life, being "green" has gained much more importance over the past years. In order to stay competitive and have the support of the local community, a port needs to be able to offer sustainable solutions and show environmental awareness.

In the recently reached deal with the council on the Port Services Regulation we have put emphasis on "green" charges. External costs can be included in the infrastructure charges and the port authority is enabled to give environmental discounts on its charges.

Coming from Hamburg, I am very happy that the Hamburg Port authority is an excellent example for ports that already practice environmental charging. After having been named the European Green Capital in 2011 the "green" consciousness across all sectors has risen even more.

The Hamburg Port Authority is not only creating incentives for environmentally friendly vessels to call at the port, but works with innovative concepts to reduce its impact on the environment considerably. Its "smartPORT energy" concept aims at reducing the dependence on conventional energy sources, lower emissions and reduce expenses.

The greening of the shipping industry is a challenge that needs to be tackled first and foremost on the international level in the context of the IMO. Even though progress will be slow, it will be an inclusive and sustainable progress. Decreasing the environmental foot print is not limited to expensive technological solutions, but can be also achieved with innovative and creative approaches to increase the efficiency of the operations.

Certain aspects need to be solved jointly at the international level, but it does not take the responsibility off each stakeholder along the chain to make their own contribution. Politics need to play a major role in increasing the incentives for "green" solutions and to promote renewable energies. With our Paris commitments we are setting an ambitious goal, which needs to be broken down into concrete action plans in order to lead to a truly sustainable shipping sector.