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IMO Study Concludes Shipping Could Cut GHG Emissions by One-Fifth at Negative Cost to Industry

Shipping—responsible for almost 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions but not so far covered by any emissions reduction agreements—could reduce its climate impact by at least one-fifth at a negative cost to the industry, a new International Maritime Organization (IMO) report has concluded.

In March, the second intersessional meeting of IMO’s Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from Ships reportedmajor progress” in developing measures to enhance energy efficiency in international shipping and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The meeting will report to IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) when it meets for its 59th session in July.

The working group, which was attended by more than 200 experts from all over the world, concentrated on the technical and operational measures to reduce GHG from ships. The main focus was the further refinement of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships, on the basis of experience gained through its trial application over the past six months. The EEDI is meant to stimulate innovation and technical development of all the elements influencing the energy efficiency of a ship, thus making it possible to design and build intrinsically energy efficient ships of the future.

The group also considered how to improve the Energy Efficiency Operational Index (EEOI), which enables operators to measure the fuel efficiency of an existing ship and, therefore, to gage the effectiveness of any measures adopted to reduce energy consumption. The EEOI has been applied by Member States and the shipping industry, on a trial basis and since 2005, to hundreds of ships in operation; it provides a figure, expressed in grams of CO2 per tonne mile, for the efficiency of a specific ship, enabling comparison of its energy or fuel efficiency to similar ships.

The Second IMO GHG Study (2009) was prepared for a meeting in London this past week where shipping industry representatives considered ways of incorporating shipping emissions into that global climate deal due to be settled at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. The outcome of MEPC 59 will be presented to the Conference that the United Nations will convene in Copenhagen in December 2009, which is set to agree on a successor instrument to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Shipping emissions could double or even triple by 2050 under Business as Usual scenarios according to the IMO analysis. “Mid-range emissions scenarios show that, by 2050, in the absence of policies, ship emissions may grow by 150% to 250% (compared to the emissions in 2007) as a result of the growth in shipping,” the report said. On the other hand, there is major potential for shipping to cut its emissions through fuel saving technologies and practices.

A significant potential for reduction of GHG through technical and operational measures has been identified,” the report says. “Together, if implemented, these measures could increase efficiency and reduce the emissions rate by 25% to 75%.” Most immediately promising are “a range of measures whose cost efficiency is negative. That means that these measures are profitable even when CO2 emissions have no price”.

The range of the maximum abatement potential of these measures is 135 to 365 Mt (Million tonnes) of CO2 and lies, for the central estimate, at about 255 Mt,” the report said.

The report, which considered a whole range of measures, including towing kites, speed reductions, and upgrades to hulls, engines and propellers, also found that Emissions Trading or a Bunker Fuel Levy are efficient and cost-effective policies to tackle shipping emissions.

The environmental organization WWF welcomed the study.

The shipping industry, currently responsible for more greenhouse emissions than the UK or Canada, now has no excuses for remaining outside international emissions reductions frameworks.

WWF believes it is vital that shipping emissions come within an overall cap under the post-2012 climate regime, as they are projected to rise even if gains in efficiency are taken into consideration.

—Peter Lockley, Head of Transport Policy at WWF-UK


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