In a recent open letter to the Arctic Council, Bellona and the Alliance requested that a concrete zero-emissions policy be established for Arctic shipping, and that all Arctic nations implement the IMO resolution that urges the use of distillate or cleaner alternative fuels in or near the Arctic on a voluntary basis.
n particular, reducing ongoing pollution from black carbon, carving out green shipping corridors, using cleaner shipping fuels and pursuing an overall zero-emissions policy were among the priorities for Sigurd Enge, Bellona’s senior shipping and Arctic.
According to Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor of the Clean Arctic Alliance, of which Bellona and a number of other international environmental groups, are members. Together, the organizations have campaigned for new Arctic emissions targets for black carbon, a particularly potent pollutant that accelerates Arctic melt.
Black carbon emissions from ships have a particularly damaging impact on snow and ice in the Arctic and we are conscious that the Norwegian Chairship have made it one of their priorities for progress and action.
She emphasised that Council members must work to reach new black carbon emissions targets. While nations are on track to reduce emissions by 25-30% from all sectors by 2025, based on 2013 levels, shipping emissions have doubled during the same time.
This is because currently there is no global or Arctic regulation of ship emissions of black carbon,” she continued. “Plus shipping in the Arctic is increasing — up 25% between 2013 and 2019 — and ships are spending longer at sea in the Arctic (75% increase in the same period). A new ambitious target will update the existing target, but it will be important that shipping emissions are highlighted as a sector in need of urgent action.
Enge said that, as a Norwegian environmental organization, it was impingement upon Bellona to advance these goals while the council’s two-year rotating presidency was in Norway’s hands.
In the meeting with Høglund, Enge said: “In the alternative energy sector there is a lack of knowledge about production potential, environmental impact, and the future need for alternative energy for the Arctic green shift, especially for shipping. Do the different alternative fuel types have a worse impact on the Arctic’s condition? One of the Arctic Council’s core tasks is to establish a common fact base for the Arctic nations’ challenges. Energy is a main driver for a fossil free Arctic shipping sector.”
Enge and Prior also said it was critical for the International Maritime Organization, the UN agency that regulates international shipping, to take action against black carbon and enforce fuel standards particularly in the Arctic.
As informed, black carbon is composed of small light-absorbing graphite particles produced by diesel engines such as those found on cargo ships and tankers that ply Arctic waterways, and they are a major cause of climate change. In the Arctic, the accrual of these emissions is visible as soot coats the polar icecap, absorbing rather than reflecting solar radiation.
Yet, that very melting has also caused a spike in maritime traffic through the Northern Sea Route — a 5600-kilometre navigation artery running along Russia’s Arctic coast — leading to yet more soot deposits on the polar ice cap. Unless an agreement is reached among Arctic nations to cap soot emission in shipping, the cycle will continue.
Soot is also distributed across the Arctic by jets, burning wood and forest and tundra fires – the last of which are an ever-increasing problem emanating from Russia each summer as increasingly hot and dry seasons foster long burning and geographically enormous forest fires, which emergency service workers there are finding increasing difficult to cope with.