Talks to cap maritime emissions underway, China’s innovation might show way
Top delegates from more than 190 countries and regions are meeting in London to formulate a framework to reduce emissions caused by the shipping industry. Greenhouse gas emissions from the sector failed to find a mention during the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.
The 72nd session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO), from April 9 to 13, will set the target and regulations to control growing emissions from the shipping sector.
Globally, the shipping sector accounts for more than 2.2 percent of emissions, equivalent to the release of nearly 815 tons of carbon dioxide. It also accounts for 15 percent of sulfur dioxide, 13 percent of nitrogen, and 11 percent of particulate matter (PM) emissions.
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has warned that if the current trends continue, the shipping sector’s contribution as a percentage of global emissions is expected to rise in 2050 to more than 30 percent for nitrogen dioxide, 18 percent for sulfur dioxide, and three percent for carbon dioxide.
Given the increasing vulnerability of all nations, economies, and communities to the impacts of climate change, policy and market signals need to quickly align to encourage the maritime industry to make the needed transition towards zero net greenhouse gas emissions, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement released ahead of the meeting.
“The Secretary-General calls on nations to adopt an ambitious Initial Strategy at IMO that would support the modernization of the shipping sector in a manner consistent with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” the spokesperson added.
At present, the shipping industry carries nearly 90 percent of the global trade and primarily uses fossil fuels on a large scale to power ships and cargoes. According to a recent research by the University of Manchester, the shipping industry needs to move to renewable and alternative fuels to reduce the sector’s impact on the environment.
“But, there is no widely available fuel to manage climate change and local pollutants,” researchers maintained.
Dr. Paul Gilbert, a senior lecturer at the university, pointed out that there is no readily available fuel option at present to deliver significant savings on local pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in tandem.
“In particular, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is a promising option for meeting existing regulation, but it is not a low greenhouse gas emissions fuel.”
Experts have been toying with a host of similar technological improvements to reduce both local and global emissions. Some of these recommendations are based on technical upgrades, like replacing or upgrading older, less-efficient engines with more efficient ones. There have been suggestions of operational changes too, like modifying vessels docking in the harbor.
While the world debates the technological and operational challenges to tackle growing greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry, China last year came up with a surprising innovation.
The country launched the world’s first 2,000-metric-ton electric cargo ship in Guangzhou, capital of southern province of Guangdong.
Around 70.5 meters in length with a battery capacity of 2,400 kWh, the cargo ship can travel at a speed of 12.8 km/hr.
“As the ship is fully electric powered, it poses no threats to the environment. The technology will soon be likely used in passenger or engineering ships,” Huang Jialin, chairman and general manager of Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research Co, which designed the electric cargo vessel told China Daily newspaper.