Emission in focus at EU and COP23

Last week, the EU drew back from its insistence that shipping should be included in the European Emission Trading system from 2023 deciding instead that a decision on the matter will now be made in 2023 instead. This will allow the IMO which has already stated its intention to have proposals of its own by that date.

The European decision was made after extended talks between the European Commission and the European Parliament. Since MEOs had previously decided in favour of including shipping in the ETS by 2023, it would seem that the member nations in the form of the EC had tempered that demand.

It would appear that a measure of pragmatism is being exercised by the EC aware that the mood in many member nations is changing. The advance up the agenda of national interests in recent elections in various member states coupled with the impending departure of the UK looks to be changing the direction of EU policy.

The European parliament is a little behind the game since the last elections were in 2014. When the next elections take place in 2019, the make-up of the current parliament could very well change. Environmental matters are not solely the province of Green parties of course but the recent elections have generally seen such parties share of votes falling in favour of parties with a more national focus. If that is repeated at the European Parliament elections in 2019, its difficult to see the parliament reaching consensus on a great many issues and some nations will doubtless see the preservation of their shipping sectors as matters of high importance.

This week, COP23 is taking place and shipping’s emissions will once again be in focus but again there are other matters that may be more pressing.

Yesterday, the BBC carried a report on its website which said that the latest figures indicate that in 2017, emissions of CO2 from all human activities grew by about 2% globally. Apparently the most important element in causing this rise has been China, which is responsible for around 28% of the global total. Emissions there went up 3.5% in 2017, mainly because of increased coal use, driven in the main by a growing economy. The report also said India’s emissions are projected to grow by about 2%, which is a considerable decrease from around 6% per year over the last decade.

China of course is not obliged to begin reducing its emissions until 2030 as allowed for in its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile there is a consensus that shipping’s share of CO2 emissions has decreased in recent years and as the EEDI begins to become more of a factor over time as older ships are scrapped then the decline will continue assuming that trade growth does not negate the reduction.

Shipping’s emissions have become very much politicised in recent times and this will remain the case for some time yet, but observers will see that the political field is now changing rapidly and the concerns of yesterday are increasingly being forgotten by electorates.

This is not least because the doomsday scenarios predicted through the 1990s have not happened but the effect on pockets and pay packets of environmental levies is seen as an unnecessary burden that politicians can no longer ignore if they wish to hold onto their own jobs.