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Calls for action over shipping emissions

The UK government should change the way the country’s greenhouse gas budgets are calculated to include emissions from international shipping, according to a recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change.

Under the current Climate Change Act, the UK government is committed to cutting climate change emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but international aviation and shipping are currently exempted from the figures. If the government agrees with the committee’s recommendation, it could mean the restrictive targets for sectors like motoring and electricity generation as shipping currently lags behind other sectors in innovation to reduce emissions.

Estimates suggest that shipping could account for up to 10 per cent of emissions allowed under the 2050 carbon budget, so represents a significant amount, and according to the committee the shipping industry has a long way to go in exploring ways to make use of natural power sources, improving fuel efficiency and allocating vessels more effectively. Some companies are already developing new techniques for improving the efficiency of their vessels, even exploring the use of kites or sails deployed while out at sea.

Global shipping emissions are said to be increasing by three to four per cent per year, and by 2050 could account for up to 25 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas output. The International Maritime Organisation has agreed on a series of measures to increase the fuel efficiency of ships progressively.

The committee spent three months analysing some 150,000 shipping movements into and out of UK ports by vessels such as tugs, cargo ships, fishing vessels, ferries and cruise liners. They decided on a formula of making the UK responsible for 50 per cent of the emissions associated with ships entering or leaving UK ports, with the other 50 per cent being the responsibility of the country at the other end of each shipping movement. This resulted in a figure of the UK share being 12-16 millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

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