EU clinches provisional deal on monitoring rules for shipping emissions

7 December 2014

The EU agreed last week on a law requiring the shipping sector to monitor its carbon emissions from 2018 onward, in a move that has been greeted as a first step toward addressing the issue of emissions produced by that sector.

The deal, reached by Coreper – the Permanent Representatives Committee, associated with the European Council – and the European Parliament, came weeks after EU leaders confirmed a separate “political agreement” on a new climate and energy framework for 2030. (See BioRes, 27 October 2014)

Under the planned measure, all owners of ships weighing more than 5000 gross tonnes will have to monitor, report, and verify their carbon emissions, starting in 2018. This would be done both per voyage, as well as over the entire year.

Excluded from the measure would be warships, naval auxiliaries, fish catching or processing ships, wooden ships of a primitive build, ships not propelled by mechanical means and government ships used for non-commercial purposes.

The European Commission would then publish the results annually, conducting a biennial review on the sector’s global climate impacts – either through carbon emissions or otherwise.

“The agreement reached between the Parliament and the Council has a great political value as well as technical,” said Italian environment minister Gian Luca Galletti, who notes that the move could boost the EU’s negotiating position in international talks on the subject. Italy currently holds the rotating European Council presidency.

Four nations reportedly were against the new monitoring requirement, according to The Guardian, which cited Greece, Cyprus, Malta, and Poland as those who voted against.

The resolution is expected to enter into force on 1 July 2015, assuming it passes subsequent approval steps. The text has since received approval from the European Parliament’s Environment Committee on Wednesday 3 December.

A European Council meeting on 17 December is expected to then give the political go-ahead, after which the final version of the text will go to the full Parliament for a vote.

No ETS inclusion

The shipping sector will remain outside the jurisdiction of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), the bloc’s flagship – and struggling – carbon market. Other transport sectors, such as aviation, are covered by the scheme. The move also does not tackle other emissions produced by the shipping sector, such as nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide, an omission that has been criticised by some environmental groups.

“The law is weak – it only monitors fuel consumption instead of directly reducing it, and only covers CO2 and not air pollutants like SO2 or NOx – but it can still trigger fuel savings indirectly,” said Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based advocacy group.

However, Sotiris Raptis, clean shipping officer of the group, continued “everybody benefits from better-informed decisions on what types of ships, companies and routes to use,” adding that the measure can serve as a “stepping stone” for future emissions-reduction measures.

Talks at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – the UN agency tasked with issues such as preventing ship-produced marine pollution and naval safety – have struggled to reach any binding result on the regulation of emissions produced by water transport, including a potential market-based mechanism.

The most significant IMO result reached regarding emissions in recent years were the adoption of mandatory energy efficiency standards in 2011 for ships that exceeded 400 gross tonnage. (See BioRes, 25 July 2011)

Shipping currently represents approximately three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and four percent of the EU’s emissions, according to the IMO.

A new report published by the International Transport Forum at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that shipping emissions are likely to quadruple by 2050, with carbon emissions levels set to hit 70 million tonnes worldwide, up from 18 million tonnes today.

ICTSD reporting; “Ships must measure CO2 emissions under new EU law,” THE GUARDIAN, 26 November 2014; “EU agrees on law to make ships measure CO2 emissions,” EURACTIV, 27 November 2014; “Shipping emissions to be monitored under new EU law,” BUSINESSGREEN, 27 November 2014.

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