EU to Take Regional Action on Ship Emissions If IMO Fails to Act by 2021

Monday December 19, 2016

The European Parliament's Environment Committee decision last week to take regional action over ship emissions with respect to emissions trading, unless the International Maritime Organization (IMO) acts first, has been met with a mixed response. 

Specifically, the Committee decided to include shipping emissions in the European Union's (EU's) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2023 if the IMO does not have a comparable system operating for global shipping from 2021.

The Danish Shipowners' Association says it "regrets that MEPs chose regionalism over global progress," suggesting that the committee has decided to ignore the long-term impact the decision will have on European growth and the environment.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), says the decision will "polarise and impede" current discussions on further CO2 reduction measures.

"Non-EU nations will be disappointed and very concerned by yesterday's vote in the European Parliament Environment Committee following IMO's adoption just a few weeks ago of a comprehensive road map for action," said ICS Director of Policy and External Relations, Simon Bennett.

"But we hope that EU governments and the European Commission will see sense and recognise that threats to their trading partners will not serve the development of the global solution which both they and the shipping industry want and need."

The European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA) also echoed the sentiment expressed by ICS and the Danish Shipowners' Association, suggesting that the decision goes against progress reached by the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee at its 70th session (MEPC 70) in October.

"The report ignores and undermines the roadmap that was agreed at IMO end of October," said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, adding: "we find this very disappointing, but it does not change our resolve to make the IMO roadmap a success.

"We agree that the shipping sector must further reduce its CO2 emissions with a comparable level of ambition as the rest of the world economy to contribute its fair and proportionate share in meeting the Paris' climate target. But this can only happen effectively in a global context. Threatening with regional measures under unrealistic deadlines is a very counterproductive move."

However, the Port of Rotterdam welcomed the decision, having encouraged European Parliament to put pressure on IMO to produce "an ambitious worldwide CO2 reduction plan for sea shipping," and to include shipping in the EU ETS in 2023 should IMO fail to adequately address the issue before then.

As Ship & Bunker reported in September, environmental group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomed news that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had given support to a proposal for the inclusion of shipping emissions in the EU's 2030 emissions reduction target through ETS.

Last week, T&E again issued praise for efforts to include shipping and aviation emissions in the ETS.

"Council should now follow the Parliament's lead, and ensure climate ambition is not entirely outsourced to two agencies with long records of inaction," T&E said, referring to IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).