Over the past three decades, the activity in the shipping sector has grown on average by 5% per year. The growth in international maritime transport has also resulted in increased air emissions. Even if ocean-going vessels are among the most energy-efficient modes of transport and are generally considered to be environmentally friendly compared to other transportation means, they generate substantial quantities of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
To date, the CO2 emissions from ocean-going ships have not been properly controlled or monitored. However, pressure to regulate this issue is becoming stronger, not least as the global demand for sea transportation is expected to stay strong and possibly grow, with a corresponding increase in ship fuel consumption and emissions.
According to the 2nd IMO GHGH Study 2009, which represents the most comprehensive assessment to date of the contribution made by international shipping to climate change, the contribution of international shipping to global CO2 emissions from ships above 100 GT engaged in international trade was estimated to be 843 million tonnes in 2007 or 2.7% of the world's total anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The report also indicates that this percentage would rise to 3.3% (1 091 million tonnes) if ships in domestic trade and fishing vessels were included. The study projected ships' CO2 emissions to grow by a factor of 2.4 to 3.0 by 2050, if the emissions would not be regulated through a binding instrument. Failure to reduce GHG emissions from maritime transport would negate other efforts being made to limit global mean temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
International Maritime Organization
In December 2003, the IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.963(23) on policies and practices related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, which urged the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to identify and develop the mechanism or mechanisms needed to achieve the limitation or reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping.
In July 2009 MEPC agreed to disseminate a package of interim and voluntary technical and operational measures to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping and adopted a work plan to explore further the opportunity of market-based instruments to provide incentives for the shipping industry.
On this basis, a package of technical/operational measures has been put forward to address GHG emissions from ships. The key instruments in this package are the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), the Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI) and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). More recently, amendments to MARPOL Annex VI were adopted in 2011 by IMO Resolution MEPC.203(62), including specific regulations on energy efficiency for ships i.e. making the EEDI and SEEMP mandatory requirements. Related Guidelines to both EEDI and SEEMP were finalised during MEPC 63. The EEOI Guidelines were also finalised but only as voluntary.
Discussions are being held on the text of the IMO draft Resolution on Promotion of Technical Co-operation and Transfer of Technology relating to the improvement of energy efficiency of ships, with the aim to provide technical support to developing countries. Significant progress has been achieved during MEPC 64 and the finalisation is expected at MEPC 65.
The multi-solution approach of IMO also includes marked-based instruments (MBI). Discussions are slowly progressing both at IMO level and EU level in application of the CBDR principle ("common but differentiated responsibility"), although a variety of systems have already been identified. The two main systems favoured by EU Member States are: an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and an International Fund for GHG emissions reductions from shipping based on a levy on bunker fuel.
The European Union, along with other developed countries, has an obligation under the Kyoto Protocol to pursue reductions in emissions from international maritime transport. The EU has committed itself to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 20% by 2020 until a global and comprehensive post-2012 agreement is concluded.
The European Commission has stressed in various fora that shipping as a global business should, if possible, be regulated on a global basis, but it has also noted that the progress in IMO has been slow. The Commission has therefore supported the proposal from the IMO Secretary-General to expedite the organisation's work on GHG emissions as much as possible.
This approach is echoed in the third recital of Directive 2009/29/EC amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the Community, which also refers to the prospect of potential future regional action if no solution can be achieved at IMO:
"In the event that no international agreement which includes international maritime emissions in its reduction targets through the International Maritime Organization has been approved by the Member States or no such agreement through the UNFCCC has been approved by the Community by 31 December 2011, the Commission should make a proposal to include international maritime emissions according to harmonised modalities in the Community reduction commitment, with the aim of the proposed act entering into force by 2013. Such a proposal should minimise any negative impact on the Community's competitiveness while taking into account the potential environmental benefits."
The Environment Council conclusions of 14 March 2011 on the follow-up to the Cancún Conference similarly urge:
"Parties to work through ICAO and IMO to develop without delay a global policy framework in a manner that ensures a level playing field and that does not lead to competitive distortions or carbon leakage, in accordance with the principles and customary practices of ICAO and IMO, taking into account the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC in the use of potential revenues."
In 2011, the Commission established a working group on shipping in the framework the European Climate Change Program. This working group is composed of the Member States and of all interested stakeholders (industry + NGOs). This working group assesses, among other issues, the feasibility of an EU regional market based instrument.
The EU should cooperate globally: "In maritime, there is a need for a global level playing field. The EU should strive – in cooperation with IMO – for the universal application and enforcement of high standards of safety, security, environmental protection and working conditions, and for eliminating piracy." (Ref. 2011, EU Transport White Paper).
Recently (October 2012), a joint statement by Commissioners Hedegaard (DG CLIMA) and Kallas (DG MOVE) was made: "A simple, robust and globally-feasible approach towards setting a system for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of emissions based on fuel consumption is the necessary starting point for any possible measure on GHG reduction."
EMSA has been providing technical assistance to the Commission on greenhouse gas related matters since 2008. On this file the Agency works closely with DG CLIMA and DG MOVE and has been particularly involved in the work relating to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI). Two technical studies have been commissioned in order to understand the implications and potential problems associated with the implementation of the EEDI.