Emissions ping pong goes on

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

12 January 2017


How emissions of CO2 should be regulated is currently something like a ping pong game with the ball being bounced back and forth. This week, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has written to senior European officials expressing his concern that including shipping in the European Union’s Emission Trading System (EU-ETS) could undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping on a global basis. In a letter to Martin Schulz (President of the European Parliament), Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission) and Donald Tusk (President of the European Council), Lim acknowledged that the EU had an ambitious policy for addressing emissions and recognised that Member States might wish to enhance the progress made to date. However, he cautioned against extending the EU-ETS to include ships saying it would undermine efforts on a global level. The letter follows an agreement on 16 December 2016 by the European Parliament's Environment Committee that emissions from ships should be included in the (EU-ETS) from 2023, if IMO does not deliver a further global measure to reduce GHG emissions for international shipping by 2021. Predictably green lobby groups have entered the fray and have criticised Lim’s comments warning the EU against taking unilateral action. “The challenge of meeting the objective of the Paris Agreement is so great that it will require action at all levels. There is nothing that says action can only take place at IMO and indeed it would be counterproductive to concentrate only on the development of IMO measures, when processes there are often subject to delay,” John Maggs, CSC president and shipping advisor to Seas at Risk, said. December’s European Parliament decision would see shipping included into the EU ETS from 2023 if IMO does not deliver a further global measure to reduce GHG emissions for international shipping by 2021. What is not being addressed by either side is that the situation today is very different from 1997 when the IMO began talking about CO2 controls or from 2008 when the EU released its Climate and Energy Packet or indeed from the coming into force of the EEDI in 2011. Far from growing at the rapid pace predicted, shipping has suffered its own recession and while some are talking about modest increases this year, others are still calling for wholesale scrapping of ships to restore some profitability. There is also no cognisance of the fact that protectionist measures were already increasing before the election of President Trump who has yet to take office. Through to now, the EU and the US have been considered as the two parties most in favour of emissions trading. There is every likelihood that the US will now change its stance and could even become opposed to any controls on CO2 emissions from whatever source. As for the EU, it would be a brave man that would gamble on that body being in a position to progress with many of its policies beyond this year let alone in 2023 given the tensions within the remaining 27 states after Brexit.