The Shipping Industry is Cutting Its Emissions

Member nations of the United Nations body charged with regulating shipping on the high seas adopted a first-ever strategy Friday to blunt the sector’s large contribution to climate change — bringing another major constituency on board in the international quest to cap the planet’s warming well below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The strategy embraced by a committee of the International Maritime Organization would lower emissions from container ships, oil tankers, bulk carriers and other vessels by at least 50 percent by the year 2050 vs. where they stood in 2008. The group also said that emissions from shipping should reach a peak, and begin to decline, as soon as possible.

“IMO remains committed to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping and, as a matter of urgency, aims to phase them out as soon as possible in this century,” the group said.

But the United States “reserve[d]” its position on the strategy, with Coast Guard official Jeffrey Lantz, who headed the delegation to the London deliberations, saying that the country views “the establishment of an absolute reduction target as premature.”

The United States also objected to how responsibilities would be divided between developed and developing countries, and expressed “serious concern about how this document was developed and finalized.”

Shipping in recent years has been responsible for about 800 million tons annually of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Dan Rutherford, the marine and aviation program director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, who was in attendance for the deliberations in London this week. That means shipping’s emissions are 2.3 percent of the global total.

“If you counted it as a country, it would be the sixth-largest source of CO2 emissions,” said Rutherford, noting that 800 million tons of annual emissions is comparable to emissions from Germany.

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