The UK shipping industry is advocating an emissions trading system for ships that would put a price on maritime carbon emissions, thus speeding up the drive for cleaner shipping technology.
About 80 percent of the world’s goods are carried by ships, and they are used for about 90 percent of the UK’s trade.
The system would be similar to the one in place for heavy industry in Europe, which limits pollution by charging any business that emits more than a certain amount of carbon dioxide, The Telegraph reports.
But ships, unlike factories, are mobile, and critics of the proposed measure fear that companies would be able avoid the British fee – or worse, change from ships to an even less carbon-friendly forms of transport, like airplanes.
The carbon cost of carrying a ton of freight by ship is 10 times less than by road and 100 times less than by air, said Martin Watson, the UK Chamber of Shipping’s president.
Still, ocean-liners are big emitters of greenhouse gases: Large ships in U.S. waters, for instance, are responsible for about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions, according to an October report from the Environmental Defense Fund.
But still more obstacles stand in the way of “taxing” these emissions. It is often difficult – or downright impossible – to identify the responsible party. Shops may be owned by one entity, but the goods being transported are likely owned by another; transportation services might be provided by yet another company.
In April, the global shipping industry represented by the International Maritime Organizations sought to reduce harmful emissions from ships by passing new internal regulations.
The group hopes that its action plan will be enough to prevent the U.N. from imposing its own emission rules at a Climate Change Conference in December 2009.