The Paris Agreement was the big news of last year. All the nations of the world, developed and developing countries, agreed on the need that measures need to be introduced to halt the increase of the global average temperature well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels; also to pursue efforts to limit a temperature increase 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. They also committed to aim to reach global picking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter. This agreement covers all sectors of the economy.

 Shipping have escaped an explicit reference in the Paris deal, although the emissions from the shipping are the elephant in the room, in the climate room. Shipping emissions’ increase could also jeopardize the efforts of other sectors of the economy making it all but impossible to keep global warming well below two degrees. The fact is that the emissions from international maritime transport have grown by 70% since 1990. Compared to country emissions, maritime transport ranks between Germany and Japan. The 3rd IMO greenhouse gas study found that the CO2 emissions will increase up to 250% by 2050.

 The 1.5/2 degrees warming limit agreed in Paris will be impossible to meet, unless the EU and the IMO  introduce measures to cut shipping emissions as soon as possible. It is quite striking if you compare these two tables below, which indicate the level of discrepancy between the range of expected increase in greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and the steep cuts, which are necessary to meet the 1.5/2 degrees objective.


expected increase

international shipping emmisions

Shipping was in the draft Paris deal until the second and last week of the negotiations. The reference to shipping and aviation was dropped just a couple of days before the final conclusion of the agreement. The fact that shipping wasn’t named in the agreement and the potential introduction of measures at EU level in the context of the new climate legislation, played a significant role in incentivizing interesting moves in the run-up to IMO MEPC 69. ICS in its submission to MEPC 69 highlighted that “the message from the UNFCCC Conference (COP 21) and the Paris Agreement is clear. All sectors of the global economy are now expected to determine how they can reach peak CO2 emissions as soon as possible before eventually decarbonizing completely”.

 The main body representing the industry internationally, ICS, recognised for the first time the need to reduce shipping emissions. It is a remarkable shift from the position that shipping is part of the solution to the problem of climate change. ICS also supported the development of an intended IMO determined contribution on CO2 reduction for the shipping sector as a whole taking account of the Paris Agreement.

 Another relevant paper in MEPC 69 was a joint submission by developed and developing countries, the Marshall Islands, France, Morocco, Germany, Belgium and the Solomon Islands, which supported the development of a concrete work plan to define international shipping’s fair share contribution to emissions reduction.

 However, apart from these interesting developments, it is necessary to see now a concrete work plan and the introduction of measures as soon as possible. In parallel, the EU is revising the EU ETS Directive. The European Commission announced in its three-step strategy on shipping emissions in 2013 that a proposal on an emissions reduction target and a market-based measure would follow the adoption of the MRV.

 Shipping is currently the only sector, the only transport mode in Europe, not contributing to EU’s climate targets. What we propose in the revision of the EU ETS is a port-based and flag neutral system covering emissions reported under the EU MRV. In principle, ship operators, shipping companies will be subject to the EU ETS rules. But at the same time -and this is an essential element of our proposal-, ship operators will be able to opt out and contribute to a Climate Fund. What is also essential element of this proposal is that part of the revenue of the Fund will finance innovation and R&D investments in the sector.

 To conclude, the real question is how to decarbonize the sector. Not if, but how. I’ve listened to previous speakers that it is necessary to promote electrification of the sector. But how will this happen when there is no regulation and no mandatory target in place? The sector needs more investments in R&D.

 If we want to draw some lessons how regulation incentivised the uptake of new technologies, we can at other sectors such as the car industry; innovative technology started advancing when the EU and other countries put in place regulation to reduce emissions from cars. Now we see on the streets of our cities electric cars. It is necessary for the sector to make serious investments to boost the uptake of innovative technologies. A recent study found that the only global measure in place, the design efficiency standards for new ships (EEDI) are not stimulating the uptake of new technologies or driving efficiency improvements. Since 2013 newly-built ships subject to the EEDI have performed much the same as those ships not covered by the EEDI.

 Recent efficiency gains are part of recognised historical trend for ship design efficiency to fluctuate according economic cycles and fuel prices. All the EEDI regulation may do is prevent a reversion to the worst designs of the past. But, it does not encourage the uptake of new technologies. New technologies are key for the fight against climate change and also for the competitiveness of the sector. That’s why meaningful regulation is necessary. Emissions reduction targets can contribute to the fight against climate change and at the same time incentivise new technologies and promote competitiveness of the sector.

 Above text is an edited article of Sotiris Raptis presentation during the 2016 GREEN4SEA Conference & Awards

 You may view his presentation video by clicking here

Click here to view all the presentations of 2016 GREEN4SEA Conference & Awards

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  GREEN4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.


About Sotiris Raptis,Policy Officer, Transport & Environment

Sotiris RaptisSotiris joined T&E in July 2014 after 6 years in the European Parliament. He worked as a Policy Advisor on Transport, Climate Change and Environment for MEP Kriton Arsenis,  some of his key files being CO2 emissions of the shipping sector, biofuels and indirect land-use change, as well as the revision of Water Framework directive and Environmental Impact Assessment directive. A qualified lawyer, Sotiris hails from northern Greece and speaks Greek and English. He studied at the University of Thessaloniki School of Law, the University of Athens School of Law as well as at the King’s College London Centre of European Law. Sotiris was awarded European Citizens’ Prize 2008 of the European Parliament as member of “G700” blog for promoting intergenerational justice. He is part of the aviation and shipping team at T&E and is responsible for the cleaner shipping campaign. He loves good food and reading and his passions include politics and hiking.