Greenhouse gas emissions from 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 approximately 11% in this period, but the growth in activity outpaced the efficiency gains.
In the coming decades, emissions are projected to increase by as much as 50% through 2050, relative to 2018, despite higher efficiency gains, as demand for transportation is expected to continue to grow. While the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will likely cause a decrease in emissions in 2020, they are not expected to significantly affect projections for the next few decades.
These are the main findings of the Fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas Study released today. The study has been prepared for the International Maritime Organization by an international consortium made up of ten consulting firms, research institutes, and universities from four continents. The consortium was led by CE Delft.
Approximately 90% of world trade is transported by sea and the UN shipping agency, IMO, aims to reduce the industry’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050.
The report, the fourth in a series commissioned by the IMO, said that shipping’s share of global CO2 emissions rose to 2.89% in 2018 from 2.76% in 2012 when the latest study period ended.
CO2 emissions rose to 1,056 million tons in 2018 from 962 million tons in 2012, the study showed.
The report said that emissions in 2020 and 2021 would be significantly lower due to the impact of COVID-19 and that emissions in the coming decades may be slightly lower than projected depending on the recovery trajectory.
Tristan Smith, from the UMAS advisory group that includes University College London, said the report showed that reductions in carbon intensity had already been achieved.
“The report is positive about the likelihood of achieving decarbonization, provided IMO and national governments now take strong policy measures to help incentivize this.”
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), a non-profit organization, said that growth in shipping was outpacing efficiency improvements and that by 2050 emissions from the industry were projected to be up to 130% higher than 2008 levels.
“It is notable that improvements in fuel efficiency have slowed since 2015, with annual improvements of just 1% to 2%,” said ICCT Marine Program Director Dan Rutherford.
“Policies are needed to accelerate innovative fuel efficiency technologies such as wind assist and hull air lubrication, along with new low-emission, zero-emission fuels.”
IMO said its Marine Environment Protection Committee would consider the study the next time it meets.