Carbon tax on shipping among ITF’s recommendations ahead of UN climate change conference

Carbon tax on shipping among ITF’s recommendations ahead of UN climate change conference

A carbon tax for the shipping sector, an absolute emissions target and more responsibility for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are among the recommendations outlined in a policy brief published by the International Transport Forum (ITF), a politically independent part of the OECD.

The report, authored by Olaf Merk, administrator of ports and shipping at the ITF, was published in preparation for the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), to be held in Paris, France, in December 2015.

According to Merk, the reduction of shipping emissions would “gain huge impetus” if COP21 would agree to a package that included the outlined recommendations for the shipping sector.

The brief argued that a carbon tax would be the easiest of the suggestions to implement, while setting its value at around US$25 per tonne of CO2 would have a “marginal” impact on maritime trade.

It added that revenues from a carbon tax could provide a substantial source of finance for the Green Climate Fund and could be used to compensate developing nations affected by the tax.

The report further stated that an absolute emissions target for shipping, related to reaching a 1.5°C or 2°C pathway, should be implemented citing the need for shipping to have targets if countries have them.

Merk said: “Considering the size of its current and projected emissions, it would be odd if countries are expected to adhere to emission targets but not the shipping sector, especially since it would be impossible to apportion shipping emissions to countries.”

The last recommendation outlined concerns the need for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and UNFCCC to coalesce around an action plan with concrete measures to reach the emission target.

He added: “In order to increase the link between the IMO and UNFCCC frameworks, the IMO could be requested to submit this action plan and annual progress reports for scrutiny to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties.

“Roll-out of MRV requirements might help to increase the transparency of measures and instruments and their impacts on emission reductions.”

The brief reported that shipping emissions have doubled since 1990, with CO2 emissions from maritime transport in 2050 projected to be between 50% and 250% higher than current levels, meaning that shipping emissions in 2050 could represent up to 14% of the total global emissions.

International shipping contributed to around 0.8bn tonnes of CO2 emissions globally in 2012, representing 2.2% of worldwide carbon emissions. Of these, 62% came from three sorts of ships: container ships, bulk carriers and tankers.

According to the report, potential measures to mitigate shipping emissions include lower speeds, higher ship utilisation rates, energy-efficient ship designs and use of alternative fuels.

However, Merk argued that the ambiguity of incentives for fuel savings and the fact that IMO and UNFCCC are not aligned in their approach to ship emissions are challenges that need to be addressed.

The policy brief also highlighted shore power facilities as a solution to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in ports.

As the recommendations were made in a policy brief, indicating they were not vetted or endorsed by ITF member countries, the recommendations are not attributable to the 57 ITF member countries.