Global Climate Change — Air and Sea Pollutant Emissions From Shipping: A Global Problem With Global (and Local) Solutions

01 December 2016 Publication
Authors: Peter A. McLauchlan

Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics & Policy

The issue of global climate change is becoming more relevant in every aspect of the economy. The aviation and maritime industries face a variety of regulations around the globe as everyone seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This paper will provide an overview of current worldwide
regulations and report on regulations that are expected.

Maritime commerce is a global industry. International seaborne shipping is responsible for the carriage of about 90% of world trade, and is vital to the functioning of the global economy. From 2000 to 2007, the volume (in tons) of world merchandise exports increased an average of 5.5 percent per year (nearly twice as fast as world GDP, with over 80 percent of that trade volume moved via ship. However, due in no small part to the very scale that makes it so vital, the maritime industry is also a significant contributor to pollutant emissions. Barring a fundamental shift in the nature of global trade, the maritime industry will continue to expand, and management of pollutant emissions will only become more important.

There are a number of approaches that may help address greenhouse gas emissions from maritime trade. On a global level, the marine industry is the only industrial sector which is already covered by a legally-binding global agreement to reduce its CO2 emissions, through measures promulgated by the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency. These measures have thus far contributed to significant emissions reductions. According to the IMO, global maritime shipping produced only about 2.2% of the world’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during 2012, down from 2.8% in 2007, while total shipping emissions have declined by 10% during the same period. But this progress is not necessarily forecasted to continue. Under current policies, the IMO predicts that shipping CO2 emissions could increase by 50% to 250% by 2050, representing an astonishing 6%-14% of total global emissions. The world fleet of sea-going merchant ships of more than 100 gigatons comprises over 104,000 ships and there is no reason to believe this number will diminish.

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