Monday, 13 December 2010

Branson’s ‘Carbon War Room’ inappropriate, says industry.

Even as countries contemplate charging port dues based on a ship’s carbon emissions, the industry has strongly objected, at the UN Climate Change Conference at Cancun in Mexico, to Virgin Atlantic airline’s head Richard Branson’s ‘Carbon War Room’(CWR) initiative. Branson claims to have an online database of 60,000 ships based on their carbon emissions. Branson says that the information will allow customers to compare the carbon footprints of the vessel’s they use.

International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Secretary General Peter Hinchliffe claims that the IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index has been used out of context in the database. ICS is an international shipowners’ association that represents about 80% of the global merchant fleet. Expressing serious concern about the CWR initiative, Hinchliffe says, “While the EEDI is an important benchmarking tool to help ships reduce their carbon emissions, it was not created to compare individual ships of different types with each other. Ships have very different construction and safety requirements, depending on their type and trade, which can cause their energy consumption to vary greatly. Also, the IMO methodology has not been approved for use with all types of ship. It is therefore inappropriate for the Carbon War Room to use this methodology to derive scores for completely different classes of ships.” The ICS concludes that the EEDI cannot be used by charterers as a benchmark to compare ships, or by ports to charge dues.

Branson’s ‘Carbon War Room’ website does seem a trifle sensationalist. Under a heading interestingly titled, “Operation Rock the Boat”, it claims to be developing a rating system “that differentiates vessels based on their pollution levels and creates a benchmark efficiency that influences key stakeholder decisions.” ‘Rock the boat’ highlights, additionally, the more than one billion tonnes of annual emissions that maritime emissions are responsible for, making them the sixth largest emitter compared of countries. The website states that the ethos in the industry, slated to be responsible of 18% of emissions by 2050, is ‘business as usual.’ CWR claims to be putting together a coalition of shippers, ports, NGOs, financiers and technology partners to address this.

"This data hub for shipping will help the key players in the industry and their customers make better decisions for their businesses and ultimately, the planet," says Branson.

In connected developments, reports suggest that some countries are contemplating charging port dues based on carbon emissions from ships. The government of Papua New Guinea is pushing this at Cancun, asking other nations to get involved. Papua New Guinea's delegate Kevin Conrad told the BBC that his country was considering this. "Our duty is to find those that are leading the charge in the private sector and work with them to achieve our climate goals," he said. Ships would be rated on an A-G scale according to their efficiency, with differential port dues levied according to their emissions.

Meanwhile, Peter Boyd of the Carbon War Room is hoping that “companies like Nike or Walmart will go for it (their database) for two reasons."Firstly, they're concerned about greening their brands, but also about securing their supply chains."

The CWR idea is not new: schemes exist in the EU that rate consumer electrical goods similarly. However, the industry is peeved that shipping, at least 30 times more fuel-efficient than aviation, is being unfairly singled out by interested parties from that sector. “We have nothing at all against the aviation sector,” said Hinchliffe. “But for Sir Richard to claim that ‘the shipping industry was doing pretty well nothing’ suggests that he has not been well briefed on the tremendous steps that shipping is taking to maintain its position as the most carbon efficient transport mode by far.”

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