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Shipping industry must contribute to climate neutrality, say MEPs

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Aerial view of business port with shore crane loading container in container ship in import/export and business logistics with crane and shipping cargo.International transportation and business concept.

To decarbonize maritime transport, the Environment Committee voted on Tuesday (7 July) to include CO2 emissions from the maritime sector in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The Commission has put forward a proposal to revise the EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying CO2 emissions from maritime transport (the EU MRV Regulation) and bring it in line with new obligations under International Maritime Organization (IMO) to monitor emissions from 2019 and report in 2020.

In the legislative report approved (62 votes to 3 and 13 abstentions) on Tuesday, the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee welcomed the proposal but wants to see more ambition and voted to include ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). In addition, MEPs say that market-based emissions reduction policies are not enough, so they also introduced binding requirements for shipping companies to reduce their annual average CO2 emissions per transport work, for all their ships, by at least 40% by 2030.

Rapporteur Jutta Paulus (Greens/EFA) said: "Today, we are sending a strong signal in line with the European Green Deal and the climate emergency: Monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions is important, but statistics alone do not save a single gram of greenhouse gas! That’s why we are going further than the Commission proposal and demanding tougher measures to reduce emissions from maritime shipping".

Establish an Ocean Fund

The committee calls for an “Ocean Fund” for the period from 2023 to 2030, financed by revenues from auctioning allowances under the ETS, to make ships more energy efficient and to support investment in innovative technologies and infrastructure, such as alternative fuel and green ports, to decarbonise the maritime transport sector. 20% of the revenues under the Fund shall be used to contribute to protecting, restoring and efficiently managing marine ecosystems impacted by global warming.

International efforts needed

MEPs agree that it is important to align the EU and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reporting obligations, as proposed by the Commission. However, they believe there is insufficient progress in the IMO and ask the Commission to examine the overall environmental integrity of the measures decided upon by the IMO, including the targets under the Paris Agreement. A global ambitious agreement on GHG emissions from shipping is urgently needed, they add.

Next steps

When adopted by the Plenary, which should happen during 14 - 17 September session in Strasbourg, Parliament will be ready to start negotiations with member states on the final shape of the legislation.

Background

Maritime transport remains the only sector with no specific EU commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Global shipping activity emits significant amounts of GHG emissions, estimated to be around 2-3% of total global GHG emissions. This is more than the emissions of any EU member state. In 2015 in the EU, 13 % of the overall EU greenhouse gas emissions came from the transport sector.

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Climate change

Infographic: Timeline of climate change negotiations

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From the Earth Summit to the Paris Agreement, discover the most important events in the history of climate change negotiations in chronological order.

The EU has been a key player in talks led by the United Nations and in 2015 committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

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Climate change

US formally quits Paris climate deal amid election uncertainty

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But the outcome of the tight US election contest will determine for how long. Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has promised to rejoin the agreement if elected.

The US still remains a party to the UNFCCC. Espinosa said the body will be “ready to assist the US in any effort in order to rejoin the Paris Agreement”.

Trump first announced his intention to withdraw the US from the pact in June 2017, arguing it would undermine the country’s economy.

The Trump administration formally served notice of the withdrawal to the United Nations on November 4, 2019, which took one year to take effect.

The departure makes the US the only country of 197 signatories to have withdrawn from the agreement, hashed out in 2015.

‘Lost opportunity’

Current and former climate diplomats said the task of curbing global warming to safe levels would be tougher without the financial and diplomatic might of the US.

“This will be a lost opportunity for a collective global fight against climate change,” said Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, chair of the African Group of Negotiators in global climate talks.

A US exit would also create a “significant shortfall” in global climate finances, Gahouma-Bekale said, pointing to an Obama-era pledge to contribute $3bn to a fund to help vulnerable countries tackle climate change, of which only $1bn was delivered.

“The challenge to close the global ambition gap becomes much, much harder in the short term,” said Thom Woodroofe, a former diplomat in UN climate talks, now a senior adviser at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

However, other major emitters have doubled down on climate action even without guarantees the US will follow suit. China, Japan and South Korea have all pledged in recent weeks to become carbon neutral – a commitment already made by the European Union.

Those pledges will help drive the huge low-carbon investments needed to curb climate change. If the US were to re-enter the Paris accord, it would give those efforts “a massive shot in the arm”, Woodroofe said.

European and US investors with a collective $30 trillion in assets on Wednesday urged the country to quickly rejoin the Paris Agreement and warned the country risked falling behind in the global race to build a low-carbon economy.

Scientists say the world must cut emissions sharply this decade in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

The Rhodium Group said in 2020, the US will be at about 21 percent below 2005 levels. It added that under a second Trump administration, it expects US emissions would increase by more than 30 percent through 2035 from 2019 levels.

Obama’s White House had pledged to cut US emissions to 26-28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels under the Paris deal.

Biden is broadly expected to ramp up those goals if elected. He has promised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 under a sweeping $2 trillion plan to transform the economy.

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Climate change

2030 Climate Target Plan: Commission invites initial feedback on four future legislative proposals

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The Commission has published its Inception Impact Assessments on four central pieces of European climate legislation, due to be adopted in June 2021 to implement the 2030 Climate Target Plan. These four future proposals will help to deliver on the European Green Deal and achieve the proposed new emissions reductions target of at least 55% by 2030. The Inception Impact Assessments on the EU Emissions Trading System, the Effort Sharing Regulation, the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation and CO2 standards for cars are now open for public feedback for four weeks, until Thursday, 26 November 2020. They set out the potential nature and scope of the revisions for each of these policy instruments and of the analysis that the Commission will carry out in the coming months. This initial feedback period will be followed in due course by further Open Public Consultations.

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