One more step further to cleaner and more efficient maritime shipping

By Jutta Paulus, MEP, (pictured)
Autumn 2020

Jutta Paulus, MEPThe challenges of the climate crisis are urging us to take fast, far reached and comprehensive action in order to reach the Paris Agreement's goals and limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

With the United States leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and countries continuing to block much needed climate targets, the EU’s responsibility as a global role model has further grown. After setting global environmental and climate standards in the past, Europe goes one step further with the adoption of its European Green Deal. However, we will only meet our goals, if we take comprehensive action in all policy fields and all sectors.

International shipping accounts for two to three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than any single EU member state emits. If the shipping sector were a country, it would be the country with the sixth highest greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the emissions caused by ships worldwide will increase by 50-250% between 2012 and 2050. The European Commission expects an increase of 86% within the EU compared to 1990. Hardly any other industrial or transport sector shows emission increases as high as the shipping sector. Nevertheless, maritime transport is still the only sector in the European Union that is neither subject to any emission reduction target nor to specific climate protection measures.

As a first step in addressing emissions from maritime shipping, the European Commission established the EU Regulation on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport ("Shipping MRV Regulation"). Since it came into effect on the 1st of January 2018, large ships of 5000 gross tonnage and above need to monitor and report their CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, distance travelled, time spent at sea and other factors. The first available data shows that the 10,800 ships covered emitted more than 130 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018, which is more than the annual CO2 emissions of the Kingdom of Belgium.

Since 2019, ship operators have also to report to the Data Collection System of the IMO. To reduce the administrative burden, it is important that EU and IMO reporting obligations are being aligned. At the same time, collecting data alone does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For that reason I, as the European Parliament's rapporteur for the amending of the MRV Shipping Regulation, aim for both: The reduction of the administrative burden for companies and the introduction of concrete measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry.

With this new legislature, we see strong political will in all institutions and on all levels. I was especially glad to learn that the European Commission committed to broaden the scope of the EU Emissions Trading scheme (ETS) to shipping, which is one of the steps needed for a cleaner maritime transport sector. In July, the European Parliament's Environmental Committee by huge majority adopted my report on MRV Shipping. Our position goes far beyond the initial European Commission's proposal, as our aim was to deliver on the objectives of the European Green Deal. After European Parliament's plenary vote next September, negotiations with Council and Commission will start.

CO2 reduction is crucial, but not enough. One additional measure proposed by us parliamentarians is the broadening of the new regulation to further greenhouse gases. Especially methane must be added to a new reporting and reduction scheme. Its impact on our climate is 25 times greater than that of CO2 over a 100-year period and even 87 times greater on a 20-year timeframe.

Moreover, our proposal calls for including the shipping sector into the EU ETS by January 2022 and for establishing an Ocean Fund, financed by 50% of the additional revenues resulting from the auctioning of ETS certificates. Such fund could support innovation in sustainable solutions for decarbonizing the shipping sector and, as climate crisis and biodiversity loss are closely interlinked, help protect marine biodiversity.

The greatest effect will probably be achieved by the introduction of an ambitious efficiency target calling for less greenhouse gas emission per ton of freight and nautical mile. Shipping companies would be required to linearly reduce carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2030 as an average across all ships under their responsibility. As the baseline is compiled from the average of all companies, early movers have a head start here. This target incentivises building and acquiring more efficient ships or retrofitting older ones.

By greening ports and improving their communication with ship operators, shipping emissions could also be reduced. Investments into shore-side electricity or batteries will enable zero emission ships lying at berth. A positive by-product would be cleaner air, and ultimately better health, for workers and citizens living in port areas.

After ten years of waiting, the time has come for the EU to deliver its promise and implement measures for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by maritime shipping. Only with ambitious and broad policy action, we can make the 2020s a decade of climate and environmental protection.