European shipping is likely to be subjected to much stricter CO2 requirements than hitherto agreed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the sector worldwide. The Environment Committee of the European Parliament has agreed to a proposal to bring the maritime sector under the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

A proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from ships per mile much faster than the IMO target was also supported. This was reported by the Reuters news agency, among others.

Completely climate neutral

This would mean that the sector has to be completely “climate-neutral” by 2050 and that emissions have to be cut by half by 2030. This is much more stringent than the IMO target of a fifty per cent reduction by 2050 compared to 2008. The environmental movement is critical of the choice of that reference year, because the world economy peaked in 2008 and so did CO2 emissions.

The environmental committee wants to set up a maritime fund with the proceeds of the ETS rights. Between 2023-2030 this fund should support the development of new technology to make the sector more sustainable. Examples are biofuels and measures to protect maritime ecosystems against the effects of climate change.


European shipowners’ organisations, including the Dutch KVNR, are vehemently opposed to such regulations. They are piling pressure on Brussels in an attempt to prevent European shipowners from being confronted with stricter CO2 requirements than the competition from the rest of the world.

Commenting from Strasbourg, ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven says: ‘Putting unrealistic pressure on IMO with regional measures that will gravely hurt a global sector and do very little for climate is not the way to proceed. It will unduly complicate the achievement of an effective and timely global agreement in IMO that everyone in the end wants.’

However, Jytte Guteland from Sweden, of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and rapporteur for this dossier, states that without additional agreements, the maritime sector’s CO2 emissions will increase by 50 to 250 per cent by 2050. The matter will probably be on the agenda of the entire parliament in September. If the proposals are adopted, consultations with the European Commission and the member states will follow.

Decision-making is slow

The European “Alleingang” is partly prompted by annoyance at the extremely slow decision-making process within the IMO, part of the UN, and the fact that this often results in unambitious objectives. According to the MEP Jutta Paulus, from Germany and the Group of the Greens, it is therefore important that Europe shows ‘climate leadership, regardless of any future IMO regulations’.

This article first appeared in Dutch on Nieuwsblad Transport, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.