Mumbai, 19 December: The United Kingdom’s apex representative body for commercial shipping, the Chamber of Shipping, announced this week that it is recommending a global and open emissions trading regime in response to the threat of climate change. Martin Watson, President of the Chamber, said, “This is a bold and far reaching decision that gives a lead to the rest of the shipping world. We recognise that shipping, which carries 80 per cent of all world trade goods, and 90 per cent of the UK’s trade, must make a significant contribution to the battle to reduce mankind’s carbon emissions.
Commercial shipping remains a global industry that has been, so far, one of the few to remain outside the purview of any country’s carbon emission reduction legislation. This is because the complex web of global operations, ownership and registry makes it unclear where exactly the emissions should be allocated. The Chamber of Shipping recognises this and sees a global regime as the best way forward; it also feels that an international law will stop ships being moved between legal jurisdictions to avoid carbon regulation.
Shipping is the most ecologically friendly way of transporting goods and therefore needs to be encouraged. Mr. Watson quoted in a media release, says, “The carbon cost of carrying a ton of freight by ship is 10 times less than by road, and 100 times less than by air. Shipping is by far the most carbon friendly transport mode. However, because so much freight is carried by sea, shipping does produce nearly three per cent of total emissions. We need to take whatever action is needed to try to limit those emissions, but without accidentally causing freight to be shifted from ships to other, less carbon friendly forms of transport. That would be catastrophic in terms of total emissions.”
Substantial improvements with new technologies have been made by the industry. Economies of scale and applied research have resulted in huge improvements; a container ship today emits about 25% of the carbon dioxide that a box ship did in the 1970’s, while it carries ten times the number of containers. In fact, the maritime industry has been far ahead in promoting carbon efficiency compared to others.
The Chamber’s thinking is in line with IMO moves to create a ‘ship design index’ that will encourage technical innovation for new ships as well as the UK Government’s ‘Climate Change Act’ adopted last month. The Chamber believes, that “shipping can most effectively contribute through emissions trading. This will enable ship operators to decide whether to invest in emissions reducing technology/research or operating practice and thereby qualify for carbon credits. Alternatively, ship operators can decide to support significant improvements in efficiency in high polluting industries, particularly those in the developing world.”
Mr Watson said, “Although an emissions trading scheme for the shipping industry remains a concept rather than a defined path, we believe that the industry, if it wishes to remain in control of its own destiny, must decide upon a direction of travel and strive to deliver it. I believe that if we can provide leadership and make a coherent and compelling case then other national associations will follow.”
Environmental groups have welcomed the Chamber’s bold move. Peter Lockley, Head of Transport Policy at WWF UK said that he was pleased at the initiatives. “If designed well, the scheme would put a price on maritime carbon emissions, speeding up the drive for cleaner ships and helping to pay for low carbon development in poorer countries. It would position shipping as a progressive and responsible industry”, he said.