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    Global Shipping Adopts GHG Targets


The UN's IMO has adopted a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships by 70% by 2050, versus 2008 levels

by: Mark Smedley

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Global Shipping Adopts GHG Targets

The UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted April 13 an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships, estimated to account for 3% of global GHGs. The move may give fresh impetus to the use of gas as a shipping fuel.

Shipping and airlines were originally exempted from global climate change targets. Last year however the airlines industry adopted targets for reducing GHGs, and now shipping has followed suit.

The April 13 decision, adopted by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at its 72nd session in London, has three main elements: reducing carbon intensity of all new ships; reducing CO2 emissions as an average across international shipping by at least 40% by 2030 and pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, both relative to 2008; and to reach peak GHG emissions from shipping as soon as possible and to cut total GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 versus 2008. The meeting was attended by more than 100 IMO member states.

The IMO press statement makes no reference to types of fuels used. In October 2016 however, the IMO’s MEPC enacted a cap on sulphur in marine fuels of 0.5% starting January 2020, the practical effect of which is to encourage use of LNG as a ship’s fuel, in preference to heavy fuel oil. Some regions, such as North America/Caribbean, plus the North Sea/Baltic already have stricter limits.

Bimco, the world’s largest shipping association with 2,000 members representing 56% of the world's tonnage, applauded the latest MEPC decision on GHGs.

“The IMO has done something no one has done before: set an absolute target for emission reductions for an entire industry. It is a landmark achievement in the effort to reduce emissions, and something that every other industry should look to for inspiration," said Bimco deputy secretary-general Lars Robert Pederson April 13 who attended the MEPC meeting.

Bimco in late 2016 had wanted to delay IMO’s 2020 0.5% sulphur cap by five years until 2025, arguing there would not be enough refuelling infrastructure by 2020; this remains a concern in the industry.

SEA\LNG, an association promoting wider use of LNG as a bunker fuel, a month ago called for ships to be banned from carrying ‘non-compliant fuels’ when the 0.5% sulphur fuel limit takes effect in Jan.2020.

(The banner photo shows one of ferry operator Balearia's ships being refuelled with LNG at the port of Barcelona. Credit: Gas Natural)