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IMO’s Fourth GHG study produced by CE Delft has attracted several comments despite it not yet having been approved and adopted by the IMO.

The study has been released as a document for consideration by the IMO and adoption at MEPC 76. However MEPC 75 due to take place in March/April this year was postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and has not yet been rescheduled and the IMO is working to restructure its meetings calendar.

With the document having been released through the IMODOCs website, predictably reaction to it has been mixed.

With the study containing a prediction that carbon pollution from ships could increase by up to 50% by 2050 if left unchecked, Green group Transport & Environment (TE) said the EU must now activate its plans to include maritime emissions in its carbon market and introduce CO2 standards for ships while in operation.

TE also said the sector’s methane emissions increased by 150% in the last six years because of the increased deployment of liquified natural gas (LNG) ships, the study finds. It also reveals the weakness of the IMO’s 40% carbon intensity reduction target – three-quarters of the targeted improvements had been achieved before the goal was even adopted in 2018.

Faïg Abbasov, T&E’s shipping programme manager, said, “Shipping’s carbon pollution has grown at an alarming rate and could rise by half by 2050 if real action is not taken. Now is the time for the EU to push ahead with its plan for emissions trading for shipping and also quickly adopt the CO2 standards the European Parliament has called for. Standards will drive the uptake of the hydrogen and ammonia that European shipping needs to decarbonise.”

However, commenting on the report on its website, BIMCO finds the results very encouraging, as data confirms the industry can reach the 50% lower IMO emissions target in 2050. “This study shows that it is possible to reach the 2050 ambition,” said Lars Robert Pedersen, BIMCO Deputy Secretary General.

Pedersen highlights that the demand scenarios – ie the future demand for seaborne transport in the world – look realistic and are in line with other contemporary studies done, for example by DNVGL. That said, they are probably at the higher end of the spectrum, as the drastic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic has not been incorporated into the projections, and the lower economic activity will have an impact – at least in the short term.

According to the study, international shipping accounted for around 2% of global CO2 emissions in 2018. The study projects that in 2050, global CO2 emissions from shipping will be between 10% lower and 30% higher than in 2008, depending on a range of plausible long-term economic and energy scenarios. In 2018, CO2 emissions from shipping was 10% below 2008 levels.

“This study can be used to tell us what we actually need to do, and how much we need to do, to reach the ambition level of the IMO-strategy,” Pedersen said. Now, the shipping industry needs sustained research and development to make zero-emission technology a commercial reality.

“Through the International Maritime Research Fund we can “crowd-source” funding from the entire sector to spend on innovation and technology needed to build zero-emission ships. When you add that to the big initiatives taken by some of the large companies in the industry, I think it is realistic to build a zero-emission ship by the end of this decade,” said Pedersen.