Monday, 1 June 2009

Shipping accused of doing little to reduce emissions

SHIPPING has taken “little or no action” to police itself on carbon emissions and Britain should therefore renegotiate the European Union’s 2020 climate change targets to take in the industry, according to a critical report from an influential cross-party group of MPs in the UK.

In the interim, the UK should adjust its carbon budget to compensate for the country’s share of global shipping emissions.

The call from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee comes after transport secretary Geoff Hoon last week explicitly committed the government to the inclusion of shipping in the climate change deal that will eventually replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Speaking ahead of the publication today of the document ‘Reducing CO2 and Other Emissions from Shipping’, committee chairman Tim Yeo said: “We deplore the prevarication that has prevented global agreement on how to reduce emissions from international shipping.

“The shipping industry accepts the seriousness of climate change but has taken little or no action to cut its own emissions in absolute terms. Meanwhile, the government has failed to give this issue the attention it deserves.”

A first step would be a more accurate estimate of the UK share of international shipping emissions, replacing the current “weak methodology” based on bunker sales, which underestimates the true figure. The government should not wait for international agreement before tackling the problem and adjust carbon budgets for the rest of the economy downwards in the light of the UK’s share of international shipping emissions, the report said.

Ministers are also urged to make clear their position on emissions trading for shipping, particularly in terms of what cap should be imposed. In addition, a system of UK port dues that vary according to the environmental performance of different ships deserves consideration.

A government-sponsored review of shipping emissions abatement techniques should identify where state support can help UK companies develop technologies that can be retrofitted to existing ships, while air quality regulations governing UK coastal waters should be tightened and the use of cold ironing expanded.

Chamber of Shipping director general Mark Brownrigg said: “The critical tone that comes through is a bit of a surprise. Britain is a country out there leading the interest level, not one that needs to be knocked for inadequate action.”

It was extremely difficult to measure the UK share of international emissions separately, he added. Shipping should therefore be considered as a separate entity, as country by country calculations are almost impossible. Shipping emissions should meanwhile be measured on a worldwide basis while underlying issues are addressed.

Mr Hoon told the International Transport Forum in Leipzig last week that shipping could soon be faced with additional curbs. “[We] will be pressing for both international aviation and shipping to be included in any new climate change deal that is agreed at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December,” he said.

“It is one of the great missed opportunities that aviation and shipping were not tackled effectively by the Kyoto Protocol. That led to over a decade of inaction. We cannot afford to wait any longer. It is vital that we put that right at Copenhagen.”

However, his speech also stressed that improvements in engine and vessel design can go much of the way to achieving the desired reduction, leaving environmentalist hardliners disappointed.

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