Illustration of a blue ship with lots of smoke

Shipping is one of the fastest growing sources of transport greenhouse gas emissions, and is also a major source of air pollution causing health problem, acid rain and eutrophication. Like aviation, the sector's international emissions were excluded from the 1997 Kyoto climate targets with responsibility instead handed to a UN global regulator, the IMO.  T&E works, together with other members of the Clean Shipping Coalition, to reduce the air pollution and climate impacts of shipping globally and in Europe.

What's happening?

For several years, the EU has indicated it would take regional action to reduce shipping GHG emissions, if no global agreement can be reached through the IMO by the end of 2012. However, on 1 October 2012, the Transport and Climate Commissioners announced that they would first propose a monitoring, reporting and verification system to provide data on shipping emissions based on fuel consumption, but didn’t commit on any concrete measure to cut CO2 from ships. Read our reaction on this decision.

As far as air pollution from shipping is concerned, on 29 October 2012 the Council formally adopted the revision of the EU Directive limiting the sulphur content of fuels used by ships in EU seas. Member states had until 18 June 2014 to transpose the directive into national laws. Nineteen EU states have not yet enacted laws to implement a limit on SO2 emissions in the North Sea, Baltic Sea and English Channel that will apply from January.

The European Commission will begin 'pilot investigations', the first stage of infringement proceedings, if the countries have not transposed the directive on the sulphur content of marine fuels by next month. From January 2015, ships will only be allowed to use fuels with a maximum of 0.1% sulphur content, from 1.5% currently. They will have to either use cleaner fuels, which are more expensive, or install abatement technologies such as scrubbers.Read our briefing on the issue.