UK emissions from shipping six times higher than thought

27 September 2010   (Energy Efficiency News)

UK emissions from shipping could be six times higher than current estimates,
according to a study by researchers at the University of Manchester.

Currently, the country’s emissions are calculated using international bunker
fuel sales – or the amount of fuel purchased at UK ports.

But the University of Manchester researchers say that calculating emissions according to the CO2 released by commercial ships involved with UK trade provides would give a much
fairer representation.

If this representation were to be adopted, the UK’s emissions from shipping would
rise from around 7 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 in 2006 to 31-42 MtCO2 on the basis of goods exported from and imported into the country respectively.

The study warns that unless action is taken to reduce emissions from shipping,
they could rise from current levels of around 3% of total global emissions to
a very much higher proportion by 2050.

A deal to reduce emissions from shipping has been under discussion at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for some time, but with little progress.   So much so that the EU has said
it will take action at the European level to limit emissions from shipping unless
the IMO agrees action by the end of next year.

"Unfortunately up until now, global efforts to reduce shipping emissions have
been slow, and are not keeping up with the pace of growth of the sector," says
author of the study Paul Gilbert from the
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

John Aitken, secretary general of Shipping Emissions Abatement and Trading, suggests that if an appropriate ‘apportionment’ methodology could be agreed
by nations, it would greatly assist the development of a global strategy to reduce

For further information: 

Related stories:

EU plans to set emission reduction targets for shipping and aviation (22-Oct

Shipping agrees to voluntary energy efficiency measures (22-Jul 2009)

Get a grip on international shipping carbon emissions, says report (4-Jun 2009)



see also



Guardian   13th February 2008

by John Vidal

True scale of C0₂emissions from shipping revealed

Leaked UN report says pollution three times higher than previously thought

The true scale of climate change emissions from shipping is almost three times
higher than previously believed, according to a leaked UN study seen by the Guardian.

It calculates that annual emissions from the world’s merchant fleet have already
reached 1.12bn tonnes of CO₂, or nearly 4.5% of all global emissions of the main
greenhouse gas.

The report suggests that shipping emissions – which are not taken into account
by European targets for cutting global warming – will become one of the largest
single sources of manmade CO₂after cars, housing, agriculture and industry. By
comparison, the aviation industry, which has been under heavy pressure to clean
up, is responsible for about 650m tonnes of CO₂emissions a year, just over half
that from shipping.

Until now, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated shipping
emissions to be a maximum 400m tonnes, but the new draft report by a group of
international scientists is a more sophisticated measure, using data collected
from the oil and shipping industries for the International Maritime Organisation,
the UN agency tasked with monitoring pollution from ships.    It not only shows
emissions are much worse than feared, but warns CO₂emissions are set to rise by
a further 30% by 2020.

Contacted about the contents of the report, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the
IPCC, said: “This is a clear failure of the system. The shipping industry has
so far escaped publicity. It has been left out of the climate change discussion.
I hope [shipping emissions] will be included in the next UN agreement. It would
be a cop-out if it was not. It tells me that we have been ineffective at tackling
climate change so far.”

The figure is highly embarrassing for the four governments, including Britain,
that paid for the report. Governments and the EU have consistently played down
the climate impact of shipping, saying it is less than 2% of global emissions
and failing to include shipping emissions in their national estimates for CO₂emissions.

Pressure is now expected to increase on shipowners to switch to better fuels
and on the EU to include shipping in its emission trading scheme. Last month aviation
was provisionally included following intense pressure – but shipping escaped.

Previous attempts by the industry to calculate levels of carbon emissions were
largely based on the quantity of low grade fuel bought by shipowners. The latest
UN figures are considered more accurate because they are based on the known engine
size of the world’s ships, as well as the time they spend at sea and the amount
of low grade fuel sold to shipowners.

The UN report also reveals that other pollutants from shipping are rising even
faster than CO₂emissions. Sulphur and soot emissions, which give rise to lung
cancers, acid rain and respiratory problems are expected to rise more than 30%
over the next 12 years.

The health implications of shipping emissions are most acute for Britain and
other countries bordering the English Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping
lanes. A recent peer-reviewed study of shipping emissions found world shipping
led directly to 60,000 deaths a year.

Peter Swift, managing director of Intertanko, the grouping of the world’s largest
tanker operators which provided data for the report, said the industry was taking
steps to cut emissions. “World trade and ship numbers have seen a steady increase,
but in parallel there have been economies of scale with larger, more efficient
ships. Individual ships have steadily been reducing their fuel consumption for
the last 20 years. One litre of fuel on a modern very large crude carrier moves
one tonne of cargo more than 2,800km; this is more than twice as far as 20 years

Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for South-east England, said: “These new figures highlight
the shocking complacency of governments which have completely ignored shipping
emissions. It is essential that our own government’s new climate change bill includes
both shipping and aviation emissions and measures are urgently brought forward
at EU level.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the
government would support the development of a global emissions trading scheme
through the IMO, and was also “investigating the feasibility of including maritime
emissions” in the EU’s trading scheme. He said the shipping industry must take
its “share of responsibility” for tackling climate change.

· This article was amended on Tuesday March 11 2008. The managing director of
the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, Intertanko, is Peter
Swift, not Peter Smith as we said in the article above. This has been corrected.