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Technical support for European action to reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from international maritime transport

The European Union has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 20% by 2020 and, like other sectors, maritime shipping should contribute to securing this target.

The EU would preferably like to see action at a global level. However, if no international agreement is reached by the end of 2011, the European Commission will propose a policy to include international maritime emissions in abatement efforts.

This report has been written for the European Commission, DG Environment, to provide technical assistance in preparing such a policy to reduce GHG emissions from maritime transport.

This report demonstrates that of the many policy instruments available to address these emissions, directly or indirectly, the inclusion of maritime shipping in the EU Emission Trading Scheme is the most environmentally effective as well as cost-effective.

Under the EU ETS, ship operators would have to surrender allowances for emissions on voyages to EU ports. They would have to do so regardless of the flag or nationality of the owner. Some ships may be diverted as a result, but this can be kept to a minimum by defining a voyage as the route from the port of loading to the port of discharge. For most types of vessel this would make it uneconomical to change route.

Other instruments, such as an emissions tax, would be effective but could be harder to implement. Yet other instruments, such as efficiency standards for ships entering EU ports, would have less scope for reducing emissions and suffer from carbon leakage.

This report for the first time provides a reliable estimate of GHG emissions from maritime transport on voyages to EU ports. These amount to 208 Mt CO2, equal to 4.1% of EU land-based emissions. Despite the potentially significant efficiency improvements available in this sector, its emissions are projected to rise in the coming decades.


Jasper Faber
Dagmar Nelissen

Delft, December 2009


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