MRV and level playing field for all industries

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

26 May 2017


With MEPC 71 taking in place in July we can expect a whole raft of press releases and announcements about shipping’s CO2 emissions and its omission from the Paris Agreement. Quite a lot of those will come from various shipping industry bodies clamouring for a level playing field. Not many will bother to question the emission output of other industries but perhaps they should in the interest of shipping actually being treated fairer than it has been. After all, with EEDI, shipping is the only industry that is regulated on a global basis. This week, an article in New Scientist magazine highlights how a major shore-based sector across several European countries is bending the rules in a way that shipping never can under EEDI. The article by Fred Pearce is titled EU nations set to wipe out forests and not account for emissions. According to the article, the Paris Agreement and other international agreements say that burning biomass like wood is defined as carbon-neutral, even though it emits as least as much carbon as fossil fuels. The assumption is that new trees will be grown to take up the carbon emitted from the burning. If countries reduce their forest cover – as a result of harvesting trees for biomass burning or anything else – the carbon loss should show up in national statistics under a complex accounting process known as LULUCF, for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry. But according to some, measuring carbon stocks on the land and in forests is an inexact science, and wide open to accounting errors. On 19 June, European environment ministers will set their own rules for LULUCF carbon accounting. How they do this will play an important role in Europe meeting its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement. Some activists are saying that countries with plans to replace coal and nuclear fuel burning with wood are lobbying for rules that will obscure likely resulting emissions. The article quotes a representative from an NGO as saying “France, Austria, Sweden and Finland are fighting tooth and nail to weaken the EU’s rules,” “This is because they all plan to significantly increase the amount of trees they cut in the next decade: Finland will increase harvesting by 25% and France by 20% and they don’t want to count the emissions, Fewer trees will mean less carbon being soaked up from the atmosphere, too”. The spokesman estimates that the reduction in the EU’s total forest carbon sink between now and 2030 is equivalent to the emissions of 100 million cars. Both power production and shipping serve important needs of society but perhaps, those representing out industry should look for the flaws in other sectors rather than continually adopting an apologist attitude.