The growing carbon footprint of shipping

Photo by blentley courtesy of Flickr
Did you know that shipping may account for 3% of global C02 emisssions and the industry is growing 3% annually? To make this a somewhat more visual: there are 90,000 ships at sea.
To put this in perspective I decided to look up the percent of CO2 from aviation and found figures ranging from 2 to 20% (through a quick Google search), so there may be a similar range of estimated values for shipping if you were to look deeper. Nonetheless, what really struck me was the rate at which shipping is growing – a rate which is harder to criticize than increased aviation because trade is so directly tied to the global economy and development. It’s probably going to keep growing and it is hard to argue against that. Here are a few points to know about shipping in context of global climate policy:

  • shipping has largely been left out of the Kyoto Protocol due to complexities…
  • Long range transport ships use dirty fuel, aka ‘bunker fuel’ or ‘residual fuel’
  • European environment commissioner now wants it to be considered
  • The International Maritime Organisation represents the industry and says it is working on ways to curb CO2
  • Some complexities include: emissions are a function of trade and trade is increasing, only 25% of ships are registered in developed countries (so would compliance with Kyoto be voluntary for the other 75%?)

With the EC pushing a proposl forward for an emissions trading scheme for shipping and aviation (trying to get the EU to endorse it) this will be on the table at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Full article