CO2 emissions reduction still too slow, experts warn

News carried on Splash yesterday that shipping is on course to cut its CO2 emissions by 1.1% this year, according to Clarkson estimates, has drawn a mixed reaction from around the world. The drop comes despite the world fleet being on track to grow by more than 3% this year.

Clarkson data shows that shipping has managed to cut its CO2 emissions by just over 19% over the past 10 years. IMO goals laid out call for the sector to slash emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Speaking with Splash, Dr Tristan Smith from UCL Energy Institute in London, said: “If shipping’s emissions did drop 1.1% year-on-year, then to put this in context, if this was sustained we could expect a little under 30% reduction by 2050, which is well short of even IMO’s 2050 target let alone a target in line with the Paris temperature goals which is more consistent with 100% GHG reduction by 2050.”

Nevertheless, Smith said it was important to understand the drivers of this reduction, particularly given the context of the fleet tonnage increase, and how much is attributable to design and behavioural changes that are permanent and how much constitutes short term effects which are reversible and therefore a risk for future emissions increases.

Bill Hemmings, an advisor with the NGO Transport & Environment, told Splash he was disappointed that regulators had not decided to enforce speed limits on shipping, but hinted new leaders in Europe could revisit the idea.

“The promise to cut emissions by at least 50% by 2050 still hangs over the shipping industry. Not only has the IMO yet to deliver anything, it just buried the one obvious first move, mandatory speed reduction, in favour of yet more talking,” Hemmings said, adding: “Let’s see if the new European Commission comes to the rescue.”

Putting the emissions debate in a different context, Peter Nuttall, the scientific and technical advisor for the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport at the University of the South Pacific, discussed how rising tides were causing havoc on the Marshall Islands this week.

“Maintaining no more than 1.5 degrees global warming requires long term consistent commitment to radical decarbonisation of all sectors. One prediction of 1% is not worth putting the Bollingers on the fast melting ice yet, not when king tides caused 200 people to be evacuated in Majuro last night,” said Nuttall, one of the most vocal backers of stiff emissions cutting legislation for shipping.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. In addition to the CO2 taxes one should think about subduction zone taxes and tectonic plates certificates, since the last two have far more influence on the the level of the sea than CO2, even if it is only locally… see Wikipedia:
    Furthermore, talk about donor and recipient nations: Of course those countries with falling sea levels like those in the region Scandinavia or the US State California, both for two different reasons: Scandinavia: Rises after the weight of the arctic ice cap – which in fact disappeared by non-human-related melting – is no longer there and California – as well as a lot of islands – because of being on the overriding lithosphere…
    Still thinking about which wicket creatures can be blamed in Greta’s homeland that made the polar icecap melt. Humans can not be blamed, they came after the ice melted… Or was it the sun?…. Nooo, never! Somebody needs to be found to pay the politician, the NGOs the UN, the climate alarmists… Let’s talk about cleaning our oceans from plastics, the rivers, the river beds, the villages… 1 dollar for every kg of plastic brought to a collection place and a bank account card with pictures to enable to save money earned by collecting; for enabling a future, for the education of the kids…
    Let’s do something reasonable !

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