• Commission makes timid first steps towards controlling ship emissions

    The European Commission has published today a proposal to monitor, report and verify (MRV) on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping. This measure will apply to all ships calling at EU ports and could to set the baseline for an eventual measure to actually require emissions reductions. Shipping is responsible for over 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and these will double by 2020 if nothing is done to curb them.

    Originally foreseen as a response to the lack of progress at the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to cut CO2 emissions from vessels, the Commission’s proposal was downgraded from a market-based measure, which would actually incentivise industry to reduce emissions, to a simple monitoring system, the effects of which remain to be seen. The Commission’s proposal outlines various measures to be used for the monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions from ships but fails to promote more effective monitoring methods than those currently in use, which in themselves could have actually served to reduce emissions. It goes no further than requiring ship-owners to report on fuel purchase receipts – which will add no incremental information to that already mandatorily held by industry.

    These reasons have led NGOs Transport & Environment (T&E) and Seas at Risk to call on EU policymakers to think again and craft a more robust and effective monitoring system as well as move to propose a regional market-based measure to cut emissions in the sector.

    Commenting on the proposal, John Maggs of Seas at Risk said: “Monitoring, reporting and verifying is all very well, but we also need emissions reduction. Some suggested measures for monitoring emissions are far more robust and effective than others, and policymakers should have incentivised these over current practices. Business as usual should simply be out of the question. Only a robust MRV based on state-of-the-art monitoring methods can become a stepping stone towards a market-based measure that reduces emissions from ships.

    This proposal also fails to promote an integrated approach to cover all harmful emissions from international shipping, and not only CO2. Air pollution from international shipping, of which sulphur (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are a big part, accounts for about 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe [1]. The growth of these emissions, which contribute to acid deposition, formation of deadly fine particles, and ozone smog, is out of control and on the verge of exceeding all land-based sources. Tracking these emissions in real time would have been a wise step towards effective enforcement of the current regulations and towards better control of air pollution. The Commission had every chance to take this step, but has failed miserably, which is particularly disappointing given that 2013 is supposed to be the EU’s Year of Air Quality.

    “It’s just clever and cost-effective to propose to monitor all air pollutants, including SOx and NOx, at once. The Commission has completely missed the important opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and include SOx and NOx in this proposal. We therefore call on the European Parliament to strengthen the proposal to ensure that all harmful pollutants can be more effectively controlled,” Antoine Kedzierski of T&E concluded.