European politicians vote to add shipping to regional emissions trading system

MEPs yesterday backed reforms of the EU emissions trading system (ETS) that will, for the first time anywhere, regulate international ship CO2 emissions as well as significantly tighten the cap on aviation emissions, a move that has drawn immediate flak from a number of shipowning bodies.
A majority of MEPs voted to include shipping in the scheme as of 2023, if there is no comparable system operating in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2021.

Commenting from Strasbourg, Patrick Verhoeven, secretary general of the European Commmunity of Shipowner Associations (ECSA), said: “Putting unrealistic pressure on IMO with regional measures that will gravely hurt a global sector and do very little for climate is not the way to proceed. It will unduly complicate the achievement of an effective and timely global agreement in IMO that everyone in the end wants. We thank those MEPs that voted against the inclusion of shipping and hope this spirit will prevail in the upcoming trilogue negotiations.”

ECSA said it will continue to strive for the full exclusion of shipping, so that the IMO roadmap agreed in October last year will have maximum chance of succeeding, it claimed.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) – which represents over 80% of the world merchant fleet – said it is ‘disappointed but not surprised’ by yesterday’s vote.

“This vote for a unilateral, regional measure simply risks polarising debate among IMO Member States which have already agreed to develop a strategy for reducing shipping’s CO2 emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said ICS director of policy and external relations, Simon Bennett.

Bennett urged EU member states, which are also members of IMO, to reject what he described as “these unhelpful proposals”.

“Trying to include thousands of small shipping companies – including thousands of companies not based in the EU – into a system designed for major EU power generating companies and steel and cement producers is only going to complicate this reform,” Bennett argued, adding: “Reducing CO2 from shipping is a global problem which can only be addressed successfully at global level by IMO.”

The NGO Transport & Environment, however, welcomed the reforms as what it described as “a much needed first move to kickstart maritime climate action”.

The proposal will see shipowners buy ETS allowances from 2023 onwards or pay an equivalent amount into a new Maritime Climate Fund.

Bill Hemmings, aviation and shipping policy director at T&E, said: “This crossparty proposal will end the anomaly of shipping being the only sector in Europe not contributing to the 2030 emissions reduction target. EU governments must follow Parliament’s lead and agree that ship CO2 emissions must go in the EU ETS if the IMO does not act. The benefits to our climate through less warming and to our industry and economy through lower fuel costs cannot be ignored.”

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. We have to wait and see what survives the trialogue with Council and Commission. Last time MEP wished to include NOx in EU MRV for shipping and it was not agreed so very much one of watch this space for later this month or …

    1. Tasked by the 1997 Kyoto protocol to limit shipping emissions, the IMO has yet, 20 years later, to do so. The IMO recently decided to restart a work plan to discuss CO2 emissions until 2023 without any guarantees. “Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.” Seneca Shipping needs imaginative proactive leadership. Acata Non Verba

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