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Shipping Industry Fails to Agree on Emissions Cuts

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has failed to agree on proposals for technical and operational measures to cut carbon emissions at last week’s marine environment protection committee meeting, reports Reuters. IMO plans to hold further talks in March 2011 to discuss a market-based mechanism for lowering emissions.

Shipping is not covered by the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol and does not have any mandatory emissions laws, according to Reuters.

Discussions at the committee meeting focused on a proposal for an Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) to make new vessels environmentally friendly, which was introduced by Japan, Norway and the United States, and a mandatory market-based mechanism, reports Reuters.

Shipping nations are risking losing their control over maritime greenhouse gas reduction standards, according to WWF. “Like the aviation industry, the world’s maritime nations either need to find an emissions reductions solution within the IMO framework or face the possibility of less sympathetic regulation from elsewhere,” said Dr Simon Walmsley, WWF’s observer at the IMO talks, in a statement.

WWF says the world’s shipping industry accounts for nearly 3 percent of the total carbon emissions, and transports more than 90 percent of global trade.

The meeting also exposed rifts between developed and developing maritime nations with some nations refusing to acknowledge that shipping needs to contribute to reductions in global emissions, said WWF.

Earthjustice, who also attended the IMO meeting, said in addition to proposals for mandatory energy efficiency standards for ships and trading of efficiency credits as a way to ensure compliance, nine other proposals for market-based measures for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions also were discussed, including a greenhouse gas fund established by the purchase of emissions reductions credits, a port state levy on emissions, and a global emissions trading scheme (cap and trade) for international shipping.

Earthjustice says these proposals were rejected by developing countries including China, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa partly on the grounds that mandatory sector-wide measures to reduce greenhouse gases from ships would disproportionately impact their economies.

Despite the IMO outcome, Earthjustice is calling on the U.S. government to strengthen its regulations that govern climate change pollution from ships.

Some leading shipping companies including Maersk are moving ahead with plans to reduce their shipping speed as a way to reduce emissions.

A recent Seas at Risk study shows that bulk carriers can reduce emissions by up to 40 percent by cutting their speeds. In general, the study indicates that a 10 percent reduction in speed correlated with a drop in emissions of about 27 percent per unit of time, or 19 percent per unit of distance.

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