Today, most ships burn bunker fuel. Typically, this is the dregs left over at the end of the refinery process. It is an environmental nightmare. It is heavy and toxic, doesn’t evaporate, and emits more sulfur than other fuels.
Like aviation, shipping isn’t covered by the Paris Agreement on climate change because of the international nature of the industry.
The Paris deal aims to limit the global temperature rise to below 2°C this century by reducing emissions. Instead, it is the job of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to negotiate a reduction in emissions from the industry.
Reducing emissions from shipping is not an easy thing to do, agrees Maurice Meehan, director of global shipping operations with the Carbon War Room, an international think-tank working on market-based solutions to climate change.
The industry will simply say that they are doing a good job building more efficient vessels and retrofitting older ships.
However, efficiency is only up because these ships are carrying more cargo. The biggest ships are emitting more because they are speeding up.
In the latest round of IMO talks in October, on reducing carbon emissions by 2100, a group of European nations and their allies pushed for drastic cuts by 2050.
However, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil and the International Chamber of Shipping suggested a slower rate of reduction.
There won’t be any change without regulation, agrees Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and the environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
This due to the simple reason that money talks. Companies fear being driven out of the market if they change their behavior and others don’t.
Most of the pollution occurs far out @ sea, out of the sight and minds of consumers – and out of the reach of any government.
It has been estimated that just one of these container ships, the length of around six football pitches, can produce the same amount of pollution as 50 million cars.
The emissions from 15 of these mega-ships match those from all the cars in the world. International shipping produces nearly one billion tons of CO2 emissions, which is approximately 2% to 3% of global man-made emissions.
And if the shipping industry were a country, it would be ranked between Germany and Japan as the sixth-largest contributor to global CO2 emissions.
ABC Flash Point News 2019.