By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, June 28 (Reuters) – Owners of large ships using EU ports will have to measure and report annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from January 2018 under proposals the European Commission published on Friday.
The plans stop short of including shipping emissions in the EU carbon market and the proposed start date is years later than envisaged in previous debate. But the Commission says they can still have an impact as part of its work towards global emissions agreements.
“The EU monitoring system will bring environmental and economic gains for the shipping sector by increasing transparency about emissions and creating an incentive for ship-owners to cut them,” Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, said in a statement.
The proposals will need approval from EU member states and the European Parliament before they can become law.
They would create an EU-wide legal framework for collecting and publishing verified annual data on CO2 emissions from all large ships (defined as more than 5,000 gross tons) that use EU ports, irrespective of where the ships are registered.
Owners – such as Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S , the group behind the world’s biggest container shipping operator – will also be required to provide other information, including fuel consumption and how much freight they have shipped, to determine ships’ energy efficiency.
The Commission said the EU-wide monitoring system should cut CO2 emissions from the journeys covered by up to 2 percent.
Debate on how to handle shipping emissions, which the Commission estimates account for 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 4 percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions, has rumbled on for years with little progress.
Without action, shipping emissions are expected to more than double by 2050 as transport demand grows, the Commission said.
Preliminary discussions between EU member states and the shipping industry addressed the option of including emissions in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme.
But there is little chance of that happening in the short term, given the international outcry and threats of a trade war that followed an earlier decision to expand the carbon trading scheme to include all flights to and from EU airports.
As a result, the European Union agreed to freeze the charge on intercontinental flights for a year to give the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization a chance to come up with an alternative.
At the same time, talks are under way at the International Maritime Organisation on a global deal for shipping emissions.
The European Commission says its measures on both shipping and airlines are only being introduced pending a worldwide agreement and the EU shipping rules would be modified to conform to any global standards, if agreed.
Maersk, which was involved in consultation on the proposals, said they were a pragmatic step towards a market-based mechanism and would make shippers “even more focused on fuel consumption”.
“At least they started on a more pragmatic track than they did on aviation,” Niels Bjorn Mortensen, director of regulatory affairs at Maersk Maritime Technology, told Reuters.
Some environmental campaigners urged EU policy-makers to think again and propose a regional market-based measure.
“Monitoring, reporting and verifying is all very well, but we also need emissions reduction,” John Maggs of non-governmental organisation Seas at Risk said in a statement.
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