A new report published by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research says that Britain has consistently calculated its emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from shipping incorrectly by only including bunker fuel sold at UK ports. According to the report, this is misleading because the majority of vessels sailing to and from Britain refuel at nearby ports, such as Rotterdam, where fuel prices are lower.
On the basis of its international bunker fuel sales, UK shipping emissions for 2006 – the last figures available – were around seven million tonnes (Mt) of CO2.
But the report argues it is fairer to calculate shipping emissions on the basis of goods exported from or imported into the country. If doing so, UK ship emissions rise to 31 or 42 Mt CO2 respectively.
The global shipping industry, despite traditionally being viewed as one of the most energy efficient means of transport, releases increasing amounts of harmful emissions into the atmosphere every year.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that ship emissions could increase by 150 to 250 per cent by the year 2050 in line with the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade.
"As the rest of the world strives to avoid dangerous climate change, the global shipping industry's carbon emissions could account for almost all of the world's emissions by 2050 if current rates of growth continue", says the report.
Source: The Guardian, 23 September 2010, and Shipping and climate change: Scope for unilateral action, August 2010.