The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has released its keenly awaited fourth greenhouse gas study, which starkly shows the huge challenge shipping faces to cut its carbon footprint. Proponents of LNG as shipping’s next fuel will also have reacted with shock to certain findings contained in the report.
Despite thousands of pollution cutting measures carried out by the industry over the past decade, the study shows shipping’s climate impact has grown 10% in just six years. Moreover, shipping emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% until 2050, relative to 2018, the study warns.
The study features carbon intensity for the first time as well as estimates of black carbon emissions from ships, which have consequences both for climate and human health.
Methane is not yet regulated by the IMO but it should be because it has a much stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide
Despite improving its carbon intensity well in recent years, the fact is the world’s merchant fleet is having to transport more cargoes for a rapidly increasing global population.
The greenhouse gas emissions of shipping increased 9.6% from 977m tonnes in 2012 to 1.076bn tonnes in 2018. The carbon intensity of shipping improved by about 11% in this period, but the growth in activity was larger than the efficiency gains. In the next decades emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% until 2050, relative to 2018, despite further efficiency gains, as transport demand is expected to continue to grow. While the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will probably cause a decline in emissions in 2020, they are not expected to significantly affect the projections for the coming decades.
Carbon intensity trends since 2008 show a 21% improvement by 2018, which looks inadequate to reach at least 40% improvement by 2030 as required by the IMO.
Speeds have remained low, whilst installed power has increased. This means there’s more latent emissions embedded in the fleet than in 2012, so emissions are poised to rise steeply if the market drivers of current slow-steaming trends were to reverse
Among other key findings more accurate data has doubled the estimate of the share of shipping emissions that fall in domestic, national inventories – from 15% to 30% – showing that much more attention should be paid to shipping in national GHG policy, and including shipping in nationally determined contributions.
International shipping GHG emissions in 2017 hit a fresh all-time high, breaching the previous peak year of 2008, both calculated using the vessel-based approach.
International shipping still emitted 937m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2018 using the vessel-based approach, only 0.3% lower than the 940m tonnes CO2e emitted in 2008.
For the raft of owners who have built expensive LNG-fuelled ships, the report questions the wisdom of these investments. The sector’s methane emissions increased by 150% in the six-year period because of the increased deployment of LNG-fuelled ships. Data from Clarksons Research shows that including the orderbook, LNG-fuelled ships make up 8.4% of the global fleet in gt terms.
Dr Bryan Comer from the International Council on Clean Transportation urged IMO to crack down on LNG-fuelled ships.
“Methane is not yet regulated by the IMO but it should be because it has a much stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide,” said Comer, who led the review and revision of the study’s bottom-up methodology. “If IMO wants to meet its climate goals, it must take swift action to prevent excess methane emissions from LNG-fuelled ships. We expect IMO to include all greenhouse gases, including methane, in the next phase of the EEDI.”
The study was prepared for the IMO by an international consortium comprising 10 consultancies, research institutes and universities from four continents. The consortium was led by CE Delft.
Jasper Faber, CE Delft’s project manager, commented: “The report will provide the IMO with a factual basis for the negotiations on measures to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.”
Shinichi Hanayama, ClassNK’s technical director said the fourth edition of the GHG study had been the most detailed, best edition so far.
Elena Hauerhof, UMAS’s leader of the inventory work, said: “This study represents a significant step forward in estimating emissions inventories, and for the first time uses a fully IPCC -aligned approach to estimate international shipping emissions. The study has also significantly advanced the accuracy of AIS based estimations for any ship, and evidences this by undertaking a detailed validation against fuel consumption and other key parameters reported in EU MRV for over 9000 ships.”