News: IMO's decade of failure on shipping emissions; EU must take the lead

Jul 16, 2007

Transport and Environment (T&E) is calling on the EU to introduce measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from ships following the failure of the international organisation responsible to agree on any policy measures to tackle the problem.
Almost ten years after the Kyoto protocol was signed, last week (9-13 July) in London, the 56th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) failed to deliver either a framework for cutting greenhouse gases or an update to weak legislation on other air pollutants from ships.
Ships are the second fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU but are subject to no policy measures in Europe or internationally. Only aviation emissions are growing at a faster rate, but plans are already on the table at EU level to include emissions from aircraft in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS).
By 2020 emissions of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Sulphur Oxides (SOx) from ships in the EU are set to be greater than from all land-based sources combined. Although the IMO's 'Marpol Annex VI' regulations have set limits on NOx and the sulphur content of marine fuels both standards are effectively meaningless. The NOx standard is obsolete as a result of widely available technology improvements. And the maximum sulphur content of fuel, at 4.5%, is much greater than the existing global average of 2.7%. However, the current global average figure is still dangerously high and 2700 times greater than the level permitted in road transport fuel as of 2009. Marpol Annex VI does not address either greenhouse gas emissions or fine particles which cause a number of serious health impacts.
João Vieira, Policy Officer for Shipping at T&E said, "The IMO has an excellent track record in commissioning reports and setting up committees, but when it comes to cutting emissions and combating climate change it has manifestly failed to deliver on its mandate. Having waited ten years for action at IMO level, the EU must now take the lead and deliver policies to cut emissions."
In a signal that the European Union is bracing itself for action, the European Parliament adopted a resolution last week in Strasbourg that called on the European Commission to bring forward proposals to integrate shipping into the EU-ETS; to establish NOx emissions standards for ships using EU ports; to lower the maximum permitted sulphur content of marine fuels; to introduce taxes or charges on SO2 and NOx emissions from ships and to encourage the introduction of differentiated port charges favouring low SO2 and NOx-emitting ships. The resolution repeated similar calls made last year in response to the European Commission's Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution.
In 2003, member states called for the Commission to investigate options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships and for a tighter NOx standard in the EU if the IMO failed to come forward with a proposal by the end of 2006. So far, the European Commission has not come forward with such a proposal.
João Vieira, Policy Officer, T&E, +32 2 289 1043,
Dudley Curtis, Communications Officer, T&E, +32 2 289 1042,
Notes to editors:
- Growth of CO2 emissions from shipping in Europe, 1990 - 2004 = 45%;
- The world's international marine fleet of roughly 90,000 vessels were responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions in 2001;
- 70-80% of all ship emissions occur within 400km of land;
- SOx emissions are the primary cause of acid rain;
About the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E)
Founded in 1989, T&E is Europe's principal environmental organisation campaigning on sustainable transport. Our primary focus is on European policy but our work in Brussels is supported by 49 NGO member organisations working in 21 countries to promote an environmentally sound approach to transport.