CONTRIBUTION OF THE GLOBAL SHIPPING SECTOR TO ACHIEVING PARIS AGREEMENT CLIMATE OBJECTIVES
After a long period of operating exclusively under sail, the shipping industry transitioned first to coal-fired steam engines, and then to fossil-fuelled internal combustion engines. Today the fleet almost exclusively uses large four and two-stroke marine diesel engines, fuelled for the most part by “heavy fuel oil”, a cheap and dirty by-product of the crude oil refining process.
According to the Third IMO GHG Study international shipping emits around 1Gt of CO2 per year and is responsible for about 2.6% of global man-made CO2 emissions. If the shipping sector were a country, it would have the 7th largest CO2 emissions in the world, comparable to Germany’s total national emissions.
Official IMO projections suggest that without further action shipping emissions will increase by 50-250% by 2050. On this basis shipping could be responsible for 17% of all emissions by 2050.
However, current estimates and future projections do not take into account the additional climate impact of ship Black Carbon (BC) emissions. According to ICCT, BC accounts for 7-21% of shippings global climate impact depending on the timescale. Since shipping is expected to increase its uptake of LNG, considerable methane slip and leakage associated with this fuel will also likely increase shipping’s climate impact beyond current projections.
At present, the only shipping climate measure in place is a CO2 design standard for new ships (the IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index or EEDI) that a number of studies have shown to be ineffective at either limiting emissions or driving fleet innovation and decarbonisation. Adopted in 2011, IMO EEDI regulation sets 3 targets, known as phases, which each progressively require ships to be more efficient.
However, the latest research shows that almost three-quarters (71%) of all new containerships, which emit around a quarter of global ship CO2 emissions, already comply with the post-2025 requirement (30% more efficiency). Similar over-compliance is observed in other ship types, too, signifying that current improvements are driven by natural market forces and not by the EEDI as IMO’s only climate measure.
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