Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping equal the carbon footprint of a quarter of passenger cars in Europe and stand in the way of countries meeting the Paris agreement, new analysis reveals.
Despite the scale of shipping emissions from both container and cruise ships in Europe, they are not part of European emissions reduction targets.
In France, Germany, UK, Spain, Sweden and Finland shipping emissions in 2018 were larger than the emissions from all the passenger cars registered in 10 or more of the largest cities in each country, according to the report published on Monday from Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based NGO.
(January 1, 1959)
The physicist Edward Teller tells the American Petroleum Institute (API) a 10% increase in CO2 will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. “I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”
(January 1, 1965)
Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Science Advisory Committee states that “pollutants have altered on a global scale the carbon dioxide content of the air”, with effects that “could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings”. Summarising the findings, the head of the API warned the industry: “Time is running out.”
(January 2, 1970)
Shell and BP begin funding scientific research in Britain this decade to examine climate impacts from greenhouse gases.
(January 1, 1977)
A recently filed lawsuit claims Exxon scientists told management in 1977 there was an “overwhelming” consensus that fossil fuels were responsible for atmospheric carbon dioxide increases.
(January 1, 1981)
An internal Exxon memo warns “it is distinctly possible” that CO2 emissions from the company’s 50-year plan “will later produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the Earth’s population)”.
(January 1, 1988)
The Nasa scientist James Hansen testifies to the US Senate that “the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now”. In the US presidential campaign, George Bush Sr says: “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect forget about the White House effect … As president, I intend to do something about it.”
(January 2, 1988)
A confidential report prepared for Shell’s environmental conservation committee finds CO2 could raise temperatures by 1C to 2C over the next 40 years with changes that may be “the greatest in recorded history”. It urges rapid action by the energy industry. “By the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even stabilise the situation,” it states.
(January 1, 1989)
Exxon, Shell, BP and other fossil fuel companies establish the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying group that challenges the science on global warming and delays action to reduce emissions.
(January 1, 1990)
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(January 1, 1991)
Shell’s public information film Climate of Concern acknowledges there is a “possibility of change faster than at any time since the end of the ice age, change too fast, perhaps, for life to adapt without severe dislocation”.
(January 1, 1992)
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(January 1, 1997)
Two month’s before the Kyoto climate conference, Mobil (later merged with Exxon) takes out an ad in The New York Times titled Reset the Alarm, which says: “Let’s face it: the science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil.”
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(January 1, 2013)
A study by Richard Heede, published in the journal Climatic Change, reveals 90 companies are responsible for producing two-thirds of the carbon that has entered the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age in the mid-18th century.
(January 1, 2016)
The API removes a claim on its website that the human contribution to climate change is “uncertain”, after an outcry.
(January 1, 2017)
Exxon, Chevron and BP each donate at least $500,000 for the inauguration of Donald Trump as president.
(January 1, 2019)
Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of Opec, which represents Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Iran and several other oil states, says climate campaigners are the biggest threat to the industry and claims they are misleading the public with unscientific warnings about global warming.
The whole shipping sector emitted about 139m tonnes of CO2 in 2018 – equal to CO2 from a quarter of Europe’s total passenger car fleet or 68m cars, the report, EU Shipping’s Climate Record, said.
Since 2015, shipping companies have had to declare data on their emissions under the EU Monitoring, Reporting and Verification Regulation (MRV). T&E’s report analyses the data and calculates that a container shipping operator has joined coal plants and Ryanair in the EU’s list of top 10 carbon emitters.
The operator – the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) – moves consumer goods, ranging from electronics and fresh fruit to clothes and toys. It was responsible for about 11m tonnes of CO2 emissions, the report claims.
Faig Abbasov, shipping manager at T&E, who wrote the report, said: “A company that consumers have never heard of has joined the top 10 polluters list in Europe. This industry doesn’t pay a cent for its carbon emissions and the EU has so far done nothing to curb its damage. European trade doesn’t have to be dirty just because EU leaders have neglected to clean up shipping.”
China produces the most heat-trapping pollution, followed by the US. But historically, the US has contributed more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than any other nation. The US also has high emissions per capita, compared to other developed countries. And Americans buy products made in China, therefore supporting China's carbon footprint.
MSC said: “MSC operates a modern, green fleet and is investing heavily in low-carbon technologies and extensive new-build and retrofit programmes to boost performance and minimise our environmental impact.”
It added: “MSC’s fleet improvement programme has resulted in a 13% reduction in CO2 emissions per transport work in 2015-18 and will help the container shipping industry make progress towards the United Nations International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2030 CO2 targets.”
The T&E report said the EU had committed to “economy wide” emissions reductions efforts by signing the Paris agreement. “However shipping is currently the only sector not yet contributing to the EU’s emissions reduction targets and efforts,” it said.
“As such international shipping stands in the way of the EU fulfilling its Paris commitment.”
Shipping emissions have risen since 1990 by about 26m tonnes of CO2, or 19%, the report says.
Shipping is provided with fossil fuel subsidies under EU law of €24bn (£20bn), as well as exemptions from taxes on tickets for passenger ships, VAT and corporate taxes.
There are growing calls in the EU for the regulation of international shipping. The new president of the EU commission, Ursula von der Leyen, made extending the EU emissions trading scheme to maritime transport one of the top political priorities of her tenure.
Abbasov said: “It’s high time national leaders support President Ursula von der Leyen and the European parliament in reining in long-ignored maritime emissions.
“To make shipping do its fair share, Europe must bring shipping into its carbon market and mandate CO2 standards for all ships calling at its ports.”
Since 2015 ships of more than 5,000 gross tonnage have had to report fuel consumption and associated CO2 emissions during voyages between the European Economic Area (EEA) ports.
The T&E analysis published on Monday examines the initial set of emissions reports from the data – giving for the first time a picture of shipping’s carbon footprint in Europe.
The report calls for the EU to impose a CO2 levy on EU shipping and calls for the setting up of a European maritime climate fund to reinvest in the sector to help it reduce its carbon footprint.
It also wants shipping emissions included in the EU’s 2030 reduction objective, as well as the upcoming EU 2050 decarbonisation target.