Hot funnels: shipping and climate media wrap

Ed King
5 min readMay 23, 2017


A round-up of the 10 top shipping + climate stories from April and May

(Pic: John Galeos / Flickr / Creative Commons)

With little over a month till UN talks on a carbon reduction package for shipping kick off in London, tensions are rising.

A deluge of proposals from lobby groups, countries and scientific bodies landed on the May 12 deadline set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Credit to the PR team at the influential International Chamber of Shipping: their proposal for a series of ‘aspirational objectives’ on CO2 was widely hailed as ‘ambitious’ by shipping media.

That despite ICS stressing any IMO deal should be ‘non-binding in character and must not imply any kind of commitment or intention to place a binding cap on the sector’s total CO2 emissions’.

Not everyone was impressed. Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout, leading EU Parliament efforts to crank up pressure on IMO member states to deliver on climate, had this to say in Lloyds List.

“Simply calling on the IMO to adopt low ambition aspirational objectives either on relative efficiency or absolute emissions reductions is certainly not good enough,” he wrote.

“This proposal will not deliver the absolute emission cuts we need to meet the goals of Paris, because even with lower carbon intensity of individual ships, global emissions will keep on growing with growing global trade and transport work.”

ICS were quick to hit back, head of policy Simon Bennett arguing that tighter carbon cuts could “restrict the future growth of maritime trade” and offering his take on the national pledges that underpin the UN’s 2015 Paris Agreement.

“They are not binding in nature as governments will face no legal consequences should the objectives not be achieved precisely to schedule. This is precisely why the Paris Agreement was successfully adopted,” he added.

Time for a carbon tax?

The shipping sector needs tougher energy efficiency rules and carbon pricing, the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggested in a report released last week.

The Paris-based body rarely comments on the maritime industry, but in a review of how countries and sectors are tackling climate change warned shippers need to do much more.

“Meeting the [2C target] requires the global shipping fleet to improve its fuel efficiency per vehicle-km at an annual rate of 2.3% between 2015 and 2025,” said the report.

“Yet, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), applying to new ships only results in a fleet average improvement of 1% to 2025.”

(Pic: IEA)

The IEA recommendations include defining a mitigation target as a “first step”, mandatory standards on operational efficiency and pricing GHG emissions.

“Implementing IMO’s final GHG strategy only by 2023 will have very little impact on the possibility of meeting 2025 2DS targets,” the report added.

World Bank’s maritime initiative

Talking of a carbon tax, the World Bank will launch a new maritime greenhouse gas pricing initiative at the Innovate4Climate conference in Barcelona this week — Facebook Live is where it’s at.


Hats off to commodity giant Glencore for addressing emissions from shipping in its recently released 2016 sustainability report (most of their competitors studiously ignored this).

The Anglo-Swiss miner and trader said it plans to ramp up investment in energy efficiency measures across its fleet, and has commissioned news ships with “radical hull design”.

That said, its reporting only covers the 31 vessels it owns, not the many more “third-party, time chartered” carriers it also uses. Still, it’s a start and a benchmark for the 2017 report.

Zero emissions reality

Electric shipping is not as crazy as you think: when it launches in late 2018 YARA Birkeland will be the first autonomous and fully electric cargo vessel, claims Norwegian agricultural firm YARA.

“The new zero-emission vessel will be a game-changer for global maritime transport contributing to meet the UN sustainability goals,” reads a press release. Check the video below.

IMO launches low carbon centre

Shanghai Maritime University will host a new UN low carbon shipping centre, focused on clean technologies and operational efficiencies.

It’s part of a range of IMO activities to promote green shipping in the developing world, such as GloMEEP, and is set to work in parallel with global talks on decarbonising the sector.

“I see our regulatory work and our capacity-building initiatives as a double-headed assault on the problem of shipping emissions,” said IMO chief Kitack Lim at the centre’s launch event.

“Together, they send a clear signal about how seriously this organization treats this issue, how determined it is to address it, and how prepared we are to roll up our sleeves and take practical measures to do so.”

Trump loves shipping

Maybe not, but after all his chat it seems the US-China economic dialogue continues apace, which is good news for efforts to clean up smoggy ports, reports EENews.

“The U.S.-China Green Ports and Vessels Initiative on Tuesday and Wednesday will hold a two-day meeting in the port city of Tianjin, where emissions inventory practices, fuel alternatives and other technical issues are on the agenda. Jane Nishida, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, will provide a video message for the conference, which is co-sponsored by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.”

Canada’s ports are vulnerable…

…to climate change. So says a government report released last month

According to the government, average temperatures in Canada are increasing at around double the global average, up 1.5C between 1950 and 2010.

It’s causing sea ice levels around the country’s Arctic coast to fall fast, houses and roads built on permafrost to sink, and making extreme weather events like flooding more likely.

“Hurricanes, high winds, heavy precipitation, and extreme snowfall have resulted in costly damage and shipping disruptions for marine ports, delayed flights and ferry services and washed-out roads and railways,” reads the chapter focusing on Canada’s Atlantic coast.

High Ambition Coalition

The Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Denmark are among those supporting a ‘High Ambition Coalition 4 Shipping’ ahead of July’s IMO talks.

And as CleanTechnica reports, a submission to IMO by the Solomons and Marshalls outlines a global shipping emissions target in line with limiting warming to below 1.5C.

“The science is clear — without immediate and rapid decarbonisation of this major and growing source of GHG, 1.5 degree stabilization will not be achieved,” said Mike Halferty, Marshall Islands minister of Transportation and Communication.

China’s coming…

Chinese premier Xi Jinping formally unveiled Beijing’s vast One Belt One Road initiative last week, billed by McKinsey as the country’s largest economic and diplomatic programme to date.

The ‘Maritime Silk Route’ takes in ports in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Africa and Europe, and heralds billions of investment in port facilities in those regions.

But it’s not all good news for shipping, warns PwC. “The land route will also emerge as an interesting option for the movement of goods, being significantly more cost effective than air-freight, and a possible alternative to sea transportation.”



Ed King

Tracking international climate diplomacy since 2010 | Trustee @LewYouTheatre | Also at @sportandclimate