EU Consultation Marks Start of Process To Regulate Carbon Emissions From Shipping

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By Stephen Gardner  

BRUSSELS—The European Union in 2012 will consider proposals on how best to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, the European Commission said in a consultation document published Jan. 19.

The proposals, which the Commission will publish before the end of 2012, are likely to mirror the inclusion of international aviation in the European Union's Emissions Trading System (ETS), under which airlines must surrender carbon allowances for all flights into, out of, or within the European Union. (See related story.).

Airlines' Inclusion in ETS Could Be Model

Similarly, a market-based measure targeting shipping would apply to “emissions of ships from their last port of call before calling to an in-scope [i.e. EU] port … and those to the next port of call after [departing] an in-scope [port],” according to the consultation document.

However, the consultation document said measures other than the inclusion of shipping in the ETS would be considered, including a tax on fuel or emissions, mandatory emissions caps for ships, or establishment of a “compensation fund” for environmental damage from greenhouse gas emissions, into which shipping companies would pay.

“We're looking at different options right now,” said Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Rhomberg. Decisions on how to proceed would be made once the results of the consultation are available, she said.

Public comments are due by April 12.

Clause Addresses Potential IMO Action

The consultation was triggered by clauses in EU legislation adopted in 2008 that require the 27 EU countries to collectively reduce their emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 (32 INER 5, 1/7/09).

The legislation stated that unless the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed by the end of 2011 on emissions reduction commitments for shipping, the European Union should act to ensure that the shipping sector contributes to the overall EU emissions reduction goal.

The Commission said in a statement accompanying the consultation document that “while energy efficiency requirements for certain categories of new ships have been set by the IMO … no international regulation aiming to reduce GHG emissions from existing ships has been adopted.”

Although it was starting a process that could lead to EU regulation of shipping emissions, the Commission said it would “continue to support further works in [the IMO] for the development of global measures.”

Efficiency Savings Expected

The Commission said shipping accounts for 3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and that measures to reduce emissions would reduce “ships’ fuel bills by many billions of euros each year” because of efficiency savings.

IMO adopted energy efficiency measures for ships weighing 400 metric tons or more at a July 2011 conference, billing them as the “first ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector.” The measures will come into force in 2013. An IMO report released in November said the measures could reduce shipping emissions by almost a quarter by 2030 compared to 2010 levels (34 INER 1130, 11/23/11).

IMO spokeswoman Karine Langlois said the organization was “not in a position to comment” on the consultation paper, and it was “very early” to speak about market-based measures, such as emissions trading, for ships.

She added that IMO worked in 2010 and 2011 to assess possible market-based measures aimed at emission reductions, but that decisions were not possible at the July 2011 meeting “due to time constraints.”

For More Information

The European Commission consultation on including maritime transport emissions in the European Union's greenhouse gas reduction commitment is available at


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