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ICCT: Shipping Industry’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions On The Rise

The global shipping industry is continuing to release more and more greenhouse gas emissions by the year, according to a new study released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The global shipping industry is continuing to release more and more greenhouse gas emissions by the year, according to a new study released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The findings are the result of an analysis utilizing “state of the art” global ship operations (AIS) data, along with detailed vessel characteristics relating to over half a million ships — collectively used to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution released by shipping “at high resolution (1° x 1°) on an hourly basis for the years 2013 to 2015.”

Figure: Share of CO2 emissions by ship class (left) and flag state (right), 2013–2015

So, what are the exact findings? Maritime fuel consumption increased from 291 million tonnes in 2013 to 298 million tonnes in 2015 (an increase of 2.4%). This compares to a 7% increase in shipping transport work during that period of time.

Accompanying this, carbon dioxide emissions from the global shipping sector — which is considered by the work to include oceangoing vessels, domestic ships, and fishing vessels — increased from 910 million tonnes to 932 million tonnes during the same period of time. Here’s more in table format:

Table: Shipping CO2 emissions compared to global CO2 emissions

Here’s more from a press release: “The study shows that improvements in ship efficiency were outpaced by increases in transport supply over the period studied, driving GHGs and air pollution higher. One contributing factor to this trend is that the biggest ships are speeding up and emitting more. While average speeds remained largely flat between 2013 and 2015 for most ships, the largest oil tankers and container ships sped up nearly 4% and more than 11%, respectively. The study also identifies black carbon as the second most important climate pollutant after CO2, representing between 7 and 21% of the total climate impact of shipping.”

“When IMO last looked at this in 2014, shipping emissions had dropped after the Great Recession,” noted Naya Olmer, the lead author on the new report. “We now know that the pendulum has swung back, with emissions again on the rise as global trade expands.”

As it stands, shipping emissions are expected to double or so by 2050 on the back of expanding international trade — unless there are major policy changes and accompanying impacts before then.

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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