With global shipping accounting for approximately 3% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the public eye is increasingly turning on the industry to clean up its act in order to help avoid the worst impacts from climate change.
A recent poll conducted by Climate Nexus, Yale University, and George Mason University reveals that an overwhelming majority of American voters — 8 out of 10 registered voters, in fact — want to see Congress pass laws to address pollution caused by ships.
In particular, American voters indicated they would support laws to gradually require all cargo ships to burn cleaner fuels, and ultimately achieve zero carbon emissions by 2040—an idea supported by 83% of respondents.
The poll also highlighted strong backing for laws requiring ships to stop polluting in U.S. ports (77%), lowering speed limits for improved efficiency (70%), and provide financial support and incentives for cargo ships to operate on clean, renewable electricity while in port (82%).
“These results serve as a clear signal to Congress. Americans desire cleaner air and a sustainable climate, and they recognize the imperative of transitioning the cargo shipping industry to clean fuels,” said Dr. Ed Maibach of George Mason University. “We possess the technology and public will; it is time for our government to expedite the journey towards a future free from cargo ship pollution.”
Nearly half of voters (49%) believe that reducing pollution from cargo ships necessitates collaboration from all major stakeholders in the sector, including shipping companies, ports, retailers, and the government. Another 26% advocate for government-imposed standards applicable to all ships as the most effective approach.
“Compared to other modes of transportation, such as cars and trucks, cargo ships operate with minimal oversight and face less regulation,” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “American voters demand that the industry collaborate with governments to reduce pollution and safeguard the health of the public, oceans, and the climate.”
The poll comes as governments are getting ready to finalize global targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping at an upcoming meeting of the UN International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in July. So far, IMO member states have adopted only an initial strategy that targets a 50% reduction in total emissions by 2050, compared to 2008 levels, which does not align with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming to well below 2°C.
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