Fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas Study – Shipping emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% until 2050, relative to 2018

The greenhouse gas emissions of shipping have increased from 977 million tonnes in 2012 to 1,076 million tonnes in 2018 (9.6% increase). The carbon intensity of shipping has improved by about 11% in this period, but the growth in activity was larger than the efficiency gains. In the next decades emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% until 2050, relative to 2018, despite further efficiency gains, as transport demand is expected to continue to grow. While the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will probably cause a decline in emissions in 2020, they are not expected to significantly affect the projections for the coming decades.

These are the main findings from the Fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas Study which has been released today. The study has been prepared for the International Maritime Organization by an international consortium comprising ten consultancies, research institutes and universities from four continents. The consortium was led by CE Delft.

Jasper Faber, CE Delft, project manager: “The report will provide the IMO with a factual basis for the negotiations on measures to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. It has again improved on the methods and presentation of the previous Greenhouse Gas Studies. We are proud to have assembled a truly global consortium bringing together some of the best experts in the field.”

Shinichi Hanayama, ClassNK, technical director: “In this fourth edition, we applied more comprehensive quality analysis for each task, which led to better quality ever, with more experience and expertise. We are proud that we finished up all the heavy tasks on schedule under the COVID-19 situation.”

Elena Hauerhof, UMAS, leader of the inventory work: “This study represents a significant step forward in estimating emissions inventories, and for the first time uses a fully IPCC -aligned approach to estimate international shipping emissions. The study has also significantly advanced the accuracy of AIS based estimations for any ship, and evidences this by undertaking a detailed validation against fuel consumption and other key parameters reported in EU MRV for over 9000 ships”

Shuang Zhang, Dalian Maritime University, leader of the work on carbon intensity: “Carbon intensity of international shipping is a new addition to the IMO GHG Studies, in response to the Initial IMO GHG strategy. The estimates provided by this report have clearly shown where we are on the way towards low-carbon shipping. It has been a great pleasure to work with so many outstanding experts in this field.”

Bryan Comer, ICCT, leader of work on emission factors, and methodology review: “In addition to greenhouse gases, for the first time, an IMO GHG study has included estimates of black carbon emissions from ships, which have consequences both for climate and human health.”

The list of Consortium members led by CE Delft (the Netherlands), and, in alphabetical order, ClassNK (Japan), Dalian Maritime University (China), Fudan University (China), Institute of Economic Research Foundation, University of São Paulo (Brazil), Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), National Maritime Research Institute, National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology (Japan), Purdue University (USA), The International Council on Clean Transportation, and UMAS, University College London (UK). For more information see MEPC 75-7-15 – Fourth IMO GHG Study 2020 – Final report.