Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in maritime transport, this is the new challenge agreed by the 170 nations that comprise the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in London, a target set in relation to the levels achieved in 2008.
Currently the engines that feed cruise ships, cargo and other boats are infact responsible for two / three percent of global emissions, equal to about 800 million tons per year, and according to forecasts without intervention the quota would rise to 17 percent by 2050.
After the promise made in 2016 by civil aviation, the large maritime transport sector had not set targets for reducing polluting emissions, remaining absent in the fight against climate change. After not a few criticisms and intense negotiations, which have clearly opposed the United States, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Panama, it will finally commit itself to the realization of “Ecological Ships”.
The approved strategy refers to the Paris agreement, underlining that it must follow “a CO2 emission reduction path coherent with the temperature increase targets set by the agreement”, and aims to include the following objectives:
- reduce carbon emissions through the implementation of the energy efficiency index in terms of planning (EEDI);
- reduce CO emissioni emissions for each transport activity by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 2008, continuing the commitment to a 70% reduction by 2050;
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to 2008 levels by 2050.
Clearly, technological innovation and the introduction of alternative fuels and energy sources will be essential to achieve the declared goals.
According to many analysts, the approved text is not sufficient: the current agreement implies emissions of between 28 and 43 billion tons, while an analysis by the “International Council on Clean Transportation” states that in order to follow the Paris agreement closely the maritime transport should not emit more than 17 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents between now and 2075.
Kitack Lim, IMO secretary general, points out: “the text may not be satisfactory for everyone, but sends a strong signal to the industry”, without any action the emissions would in fact amount to 101 billion tons in 2075, with devastating consequences for the climate.
It is hoped that around 2030 most newly built ocean-going ships will run on zero-emission renewable fuels and that as a result, ships involved in over 80% of global trade will no longer use fossil fuels, but to do so it will be necessary to start with the implementation of short-term measures that can reduce emissions even before 2023, the date set for a verification and review of the reduction strategy.
In a joint statement Christiana Figueres, former secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and David Paul, Minister for the Environment of the Marshall Islands, state:
“This agreement represents an important compromise and a clear political signal for the maritime sector to shoulder its responsibilities in the effort to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement”
And David Paul continues “… the international maritime transport sector will undertake a transition to a low-carbon future, where maritime transport can grow sustainably and maintain its role as a mainstay of global trade”.