The Environmental Audit Committee has called for the Government to get a grip on the problem of carbon emissions from international shipping.
The report also called for the UK’s share of international shipping emissions to be taken into account within national carbon budgets.
Launching the report, Committee Chairman Tim Yeo MP said:
"We deplore the prevarication that has prevented global agreement on how to reduce emissions from international shipping. The shipping industry accepts the seriousness of climate change but has taken little or no action to cut its own emissions in absolute terms. Meanwhile the Government has failed to give this issue the attention it deserves.
"Emissions from shipping cannot be allowed to continue escalating in an uncontrolled manner. The UK needs to show more determined leadership on climate change issues within the International Maritime Organization. To this end the Government should improve its estimates of the UK’s share of global emissions from shipping, and then take these into account when setting our domestic carbon budgets."
Going further, the Committee argues in its report that:
- The Government should consult on a more accurate methodology to estimate the UK’s share of international shipping emissions. They should use this to replace the current system, a weak methodology based simply on sales of maritime fuel bunkers in the UK - which Ministers admit is likely to underestimate the true figures.
- The Government should work harder to secure the inclusion of international emissions from shipping within the EU’s climate change reduction targets. However, it should not wait for agreement at an EU or international level before taking action. As early as possible it should adjust carbon budgets downwards for the rest of the UK economy to compensate for the UK’s share of international shipping emissions.
- Ministers must clarify their position on the use of emission trading for the shipping sector. In particular they must set out what kind of cap is required within a shipping emissions trading scheme.
- The Government should examine the case for imposing a system of UK port dues that vary according to the environmental performance of different ships.
- A Government-sponsored review of shipping emissions abatement techniques should identify where Government support could help UK researchers, designers and shipyards become global leaders in the creation of technologies that can be retrofitted to existing ships. It is particularly important to accelerate research and development into low and zero-carbon propulsion systems, given the current lack of alternatives to oil-driven engines.
- The Government has played an important role within the International Maritime Organization in tightening regulations on emissions of particulate matter and harmful gases other than CO2. The challenge now for the Government is to ensure these standards are adhered to in practice. It should also review whether to extend stricter air quality regulations to all coastal waters around the UK and to mandate the provision of shore-side electricity for ships as a means to curb emissions in port.
- Ministers must clarify their policy and views on how far they believe an international scheme to curb emissions can raise funds for climate change adaptation in developing countries. They must also set out how this could be reconciled with the Treasury’s opposition to allowing an international body to disburse the funds to developing countries, as well as its general opposition to hypothecating revenues to particular ends.
Background to inquiry
Shipping is a highly carbon-efficient mode of transport. However, shipping emissions are reported to have doubled since 1990. If the UK’s share of shipping emissions were confirmed as lying at the upper end of the Government’s current range of estimates then, overall, UK carbon emissions might not have fallen at all since 1990.
Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, developed nations were handed responsibility for working through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to limit global shipping emissions. No agreement has been reached or is now likely to emerge before the next major climate negotiations in Copenhagen later this year.
The IMO estimated in a recent study that international shipping is responsible for annual emissions of around 843 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) in 2007, or around 3 per cent of total man-made carbon emissions. This places "international shipping" just below Germany and just above the UK in a league table of emitters. Only six countries produce more greenhouse gases than international shipping. In the absence of regulations to limit them, then by 2050 emissions from international shipping are projected to grow by a factor of 2.4 to 3.
The focus of the inquiry was to examine what the UK government is doing with respect to international negotiations to tackle shipping emissions, what measures it is using to take account of its share of these emission within its domestic carbon budgets and how well it is supporting crucial research and development required to reduce emissions from shipping at the pace required to prevent dangerous climate change.