Ships carrying electronics and avocados join coal plants and Ryanair in top 10 emitters

A container shipping company has been ranked in the EU’s top 10 carbon emitters alongside a number of coal-fired power stations and the low-cost airline Ryanair. Official emissions data analysed by T&E ranks the 10 entities that emit the greatest amount of CO2 equivalent, and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) came eighth with 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. 

MSC moves consumer goods, ranging from electronics and fresh fruit to clothes and toys – in other words many people’s Christmas presents! The others in the top 10 emitters were eight coal-fired power stations in Germany and Poland, and the airline Ryanair which came 10th with 9.9mt CO2e.

The data also shows that ships sailing to and from Europe emitted more than 139 million tonnes of CO2 last year. If shipping were a country it would be the EU's 8th biggest emitter after the Netherlands. Meanwhile, shipping is the only sector with no binding measures to reduce its carbon emissions in the bloc and still does not pay for its carbon pollution. The sector is exempt under EU law from paying tax on its fuel, an effective subsidy worth €24 billion a year, according to T&E.

Faig Abbasov said: ‘A company that consumers have never heard of has joined the top 10 polluters list in Europe. This industry doesn’t pay a cent for its carbon emissions and the EU has so far done nothing to curb its damage. European trade doesn’t have to be dirty just because EU leaders have neglected to clean up shipping.’

The study also found that in France, Germany, UK, Spain, Sweden and Finland emissions from ships sailing to and from those countries were larger than the emissions from all the passenger cars registered in 10 or more of their largest cities. In five countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, the sector emitted as much CO2 as all the cars nationally.

The European Commission’s European Green Deal commits to bringing shipping emissions under the bloc’s emissions trading system (ETS) to help make Europe carbon neutral. T&E said this was an essential first step to rein in the sector’s climate impact. But additional measures, including a CO2 standard for how much ships can emit while in operation, will also be needed to accelerate the uptake of zero-carbon fuels and technologies.

Faig Abbasov concluded: ‘It’s high time national leaders support President Ursula von der Leyen and the European Parliament in reigning in long-ignored maritime emissions. To make shipping do its fair share, Europe must bring shipping into its carbon market and mandate CO2 standards for all ships calling at its ports.’