A sustainable maritime transport sector

The EU is on course to realising a fully sustainable maritime transport sector, writes Jutta Paulus.
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By Jutta Paulus

Jutta Paulus (DE, Greens/EFA) is rapporteur for Parliament’s report on CO2 emissions from maritime transport

10 Aug 2020

This month, we came one step closer to achieving a fully sustainable and decarbonised EU maritime transport sector. For far too long, shipping has been the only transport sector within the European Union without any emissions regulation.

In 2018 alone, ships emitted more than 130 million tonnes of CO2, that’s more than the annual CO2 emissions of Belgium. With the adoption - by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee - of the report covering the “Regulation on monitoring, reporting and verifying carbon dioxide emissions from shipping,” we are making progress in our climate emergency fight and our efforts to reach the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.

As Parliament’s rapporteur, I am especially grateful for the ENVI committee’s support and strong majority approval of my report. There is general and far-reaching ambition across Parliament’s democratic political groups to achieve the European Green Deal’s objectives.

Also known as the “MRV (Monitoring, Reporting and Verification) Regulation,” this rather new EU legislation requires ships above 5000 gross tonnage to report on their CO2 emissions when operating in waters within the European Economic Area. Their data is verified by independent authorities.

“In 2018 alone, ships emitted more than 130 million tonnes of CO2, that’s more than the annual CO2 emissions of Belgium”

For 2018 and 2019, reliable data on CO2 emissions from shipping is now available. However, collecting data does not reduce greenhouse gases.

When the European Commission proposed to amend the MRV Regulation in order to align it with the Data Collection System (DCS) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), we MEPs agreed to go beyond the Commission’s proposal and introduce measures to reduce greenhouse gases.

Parliament’s position will be voted on in September, but our committee’s report has already set the scene for an ambitious policy. We managed to partly align the EU and IMO reporting mechanisms, lowering the bureaucratic burden for companies while securing the EU’s high standards concerning monitoring, verification and cargo carried.

The IMO’s DCS considers deadweight tonnage only, but ‘cargo carried’ is necessary to calculate the carbon intensity of shipped goods which has become increasingly important for businesses and customers wanting to act on climate change.

The committee’s report aims to take into account other greenhouse gases besides CO2. Methane is also important, as a fuel switch to Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is favoured by many companies as it has less Nitrogen Oxide and Sulphur Oxide emissions. But methane’s impact on our climate is comparatively 25 times greater than CO2’s over a 100-year period and even 87 times greater on a 20-year timeframe.

Therefore, it is essential that we include methane in the MRV regulation. The ENVI committee has also demanded the inclusion, by January 2022, of shipping in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) following the Commission’s update of its 2013 impact assessment.

Around 50 percent of the revenue from the auctioning of ETS certificates for shipping would go into an Ocean fund to promote innovative and sustainable solutions for decarbonising the shipping sector.

And, as the climate crisis and biodiversity loss are closely interlinked, 20 percent from this fund should be attributed for marine biodiversity. Additionally, shipping companies would be required to reduce their carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per transport work) by at least 40 percent by 2030 as an average across all ships under their responsibility, compared to the average performance per category of ships of the same size and type.

The ambitious efficiency target of 40 percent less CO2 per ton of freight transported and nautical mile travelled will probably have the greatest effect, as this will provide a real incentive to build more efficient ships - which will also operate outside the EU.

“Even with more efficient ships, we will still face comparably high emissions. Therefore, it’s essential that we pool our efforts in search of alternative, fully sustainable fuels. Huge potential could lie with green hydrogen”

Sustainable shipping is not limited to the seas. There are huge opportunities for reducing shipping emissions with the greening of ports and the improvement of their communication with operators.

Therefore, we agreed on the need to push ports and ship owners for investments in shore-side electricity and for zero-emission ships while lying at berth.

If ships at berth were required to switch off their engines and instead connect to the mainland electricity grid, or use other energy sources with equivalent effect, this measure would provide immediate health benefits to citizens living in port areas.

Therefore, our report calls on the Commission to develop measures to deliver this goal, such as setting targets for Member States for the deployment of shore-side electricity.

The revised MRV regulation has the potential to lead us into a more sustainable future. However, this regulation alone will not be sufficient. International trade is about to further increase in the future. Even with more efficient ships, we will still face comparably high emissions.

Therefore, it’s essential that we pool our efforts in search of alternative, fully sustainable fuels. Huge potential could lie with green hydrogen.

Hopefully, our approach will lead as an example worldwide, because it is only by global action that we will reach our global Paris Climate Agreement commitments.

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