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CO2 emissions

UN shipping agency greenlights a decade of rising greenhouse gas emissions

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Governments have backtracked on their own commitments to urgently reduce climate-heating emissions from the shipping sector, environmental organizations have said following a key meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on 17 November.

The IMO’s marine environment protection committee approved a proposal that will allow the shipping sector’s 1 billion tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions to keep rising for the rest of this decade – the very decade in which the world’s climate scientists say we must halve global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to stay within a relatively safe 1.5°C of global warming, as committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.

T&E Shipping Director Faïg Abbasov said: “The IMO has given the go-ahead to a decade of rising greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Europe must now take responsibility and accelerate implementation of the Green Deal. The EU should require ships to pay for their pollution in its carbon market, and mandate the use of alternative green fuels and energy saving technologies. Across the world nations must take action on maritime emissions where the UN agency has utterly failed.”

As acknowledged by many countries in the talks, the approved proposal breaks the initial IMO greenhouse gas strategy in three crucial ways. It will fail to reduce emissions before 2023, will not peak emissions as soon as possible, and will not set shipping CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement goals.

Countries that supported the adoption of the proposal at the IMO, and its abandonment of any effort to tackle climate change in the short term, have lost any moral ground to criticize regions or nations trying to tackle shipping emissions – as part of their economy-wide national climate plans.

John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, said: “As scientists are telling us we have less than 10 years to stop our headlong rush to climate catastrophe, the IMO has decided that emissions can keep on growing for 10 years at least. Their complacency is breath-taking. Our thoughts are with the most vulnerable who will pay the highest price for this act of extreme folly.”

Nations and regions serious about facing the climate crisis must now take immediate national and regional action to curb ship emissions, the environmental NGOs said. Nations should act swiftly to set carbon equivalent intensity regulations consistent with the Paris Agreement for ships calling at their ports; require ships to report and pay for their pollution where they dock, and start to create low- and zero-emission priority shipping corridors.

CO2 emissions

Carbon leakage: Prevent firms from avoiding emissions rules

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The European Parliament is discussing a carbon levy on imported goods to stop companies moving outside the EU to avoid emissions standards, a practice known as carbon leakage. Society.

As European industry struggles to recover from the Covid-19 crisis and the economic pressure due to cheap imports from trading partners, the EU is trying to honour its climate commitments, whilst keeping jobs and production chains at home.

Discover how the EU’s recovery plan prioritizes creating a sustainable and climate-neutral Europe.

An EU carbon levy to prevent carbon leakage

EU efforts to reduce its carbon footprint under the European Green Deal and become sustainably resilient and climate neutral by 2050, could be undermined by less climate-ambitious countries. To mitigate this, the EU will propose a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which would apply a carbon levy on imports of certain goods from outside the EU. MEPs will put forward proposals during March's first plenary session. How would a European carbon levy work?  

  • If products come from countries with less ambitious rules than the EU, the levy is applied, ensuring imports are not cheaper than the equivalent EU product. 

Given the risk of more polluting sectors relocating production to countries with looser greenhouse gas emission constraints, carbon pricing is seen as an essential complement to the existing EU carbon allowances system, the EU's emissions trading system (ETS). What is carbon leakage?  

  • Carbon leakage is the shifting of greenhouse gas emitting industries outside the EU to avoid tighter standards. As this simply moves the problem elsewhere, MEPs want to avoid the problem through a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). 

The Parliament's objective is to fight against climate change without endangering our businesses due to unfair international competition due to the lack of climate action in certain countries. We must protect the EU against climate dumping while ensuring that our companies also make the necessary efforts to play their part in the fight against climate change. Yannick Jadot Lead MEP

Existing carbon pricing measures in the EU

Under the current emissions trading system (ETS), which provides financial incentives to cut emissions, power plants and industries need to hold a permit for each tonne of CO2 they produce. The price of those permits is driven by demand and supply. Due to the last economic crisis, demand for permits has dropped and so has their price, which is so low that it discourages companies from investing in green technologies. In order to solve this issue, the EU will reform ETS.

What the Parliament is asking for

The new mechanism should align with World Trade Organisation rules and encourage the decarbonization of EU and non-EU industries. It will also become part of the EU's future industrial strategy.

By 2023, the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism should cover power and energy-intensive industrial sectors, which represent 94% of the EU's industrial emissions and still receive substantial free allocations, according to MEPs.

They said that it should be designed with the sole aim of pursuing climate objectives and a global level playing field, and not be used as a tool to increase protectionism.

MEPs also support the European Commission proposal to use the revenues generated by the mechanism as new own resources for the EU's budget, and ask the Commission to ensure full transparency about the use of those revenues.

The Commission is expected to present its proposal on the new mechanism in the second quarter of 2021.

Learn more about the EU's responses to climate change.

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Climate change

ECB sets up climate change centre

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The European Central Bank (ECB) has decided to set up a climate change centre to bring together the work on climate issues in different parts of the bank. This decision reflects the growing importance of climate change for the economy and the ECB’s policy, as well as the need for a more structured approach to strategic planning and co-ordination.The new unit, which will consist of around ten staff working with existing teams across the bank, will report to ECB President Christine Lagarde (pictured), who oversees the ECB’s work on climate change and sustainable finance.“Climate change affects all of our policy areas,” said Lagarde. “The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves.”The climate change centre will shape and steer the ECB’s climate agenda internally and externally, building on the expertise of all teams already working on climate-related topics. Its activities will be organised in workstreams, ranging from monetary policy to prudential functions, and supported by staff that have data and climate change expertise. The climate change centre will start its work in early 2021.

The new structure will be reviewed after three years, as the aim is to ultimately incorporate climate considerations into the routine business of the ECB.

  • The five work streams of the climate change centre focus on: 1) financial stability and prudential policy; 2) macroeconomic analysis and monetary policy; 3) financial market operations and risk; 4) EU policy and financial regulation; and 5) corporate sustainability.

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Climate change

President von der Leyen delivers speech at the One Planet Summit

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During the 'One Planet' summit which was held on 11 January in Paris, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) delivered a speech on sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and the fight against climate change, stressing that these are different sides of the same coin. To illustrate the EU's support for global co-operation and local action, it pledged to support and sponsor the Africa-led Great Green Wall flagship initiative which aims to tackle the land degradation and desertification, building on the EU's long-standing investment in this initiative.

She also announced that EU research and innovation on health and biodiversity will be a priority as part of a global co-operative and coordination effort. With the Green Deal for Europe, the EU is at the forefront of international action in favour of climate and biodiversity. President von der Leyen highlighted the role of nature and sustainable agriculture in achieving the goal of the Green Deal for Europe, which is to make Europe the first climate neutral continent of by 2050.

Last May, the Commission published the Biodiversity and Farm-to-Table strategies, which set out the EU's ambitious actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and in the world, to transform European agriculture into sustainable and organic agriculture and to support farmers in this transition. The “One Planet” summit, co-organized by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, began with a commitment by leaders in favor of biodiversity, which President von der Leyen has already supported during the session of the United Nations General Assembly last September. The summit sought to build momentum for COP15 on biodiversity and COP26 on climate this year.

Follow the speech by videoconference on EbS.

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