Shipping was not specifically mentioned in the landmark Paris climate agreement reached among 195 nations in December, but the industry still has a role to play in the reduction of CO2 emissions worldwide.
While the agreement does not specifically cite international shipping, the International Chamber of Shipping said the global transport trade agencies will continue to implement its own emissions-reduction plans.
"It is more of a presentational thing, really," Simon Bennett, director policy and external relations for the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), told EBN. "The absence of shipping in the agreement is unfortunate for those who are not aware of what has already been agreed upon and the work the industry has been doing. They might perceive that somehow shipping has been left out of the process, which is not the case."
Regardless of the omission in the pact, the ICS said the shipping industry will continue to implement measures to reduce CO2 per [metric] ton-km by at least 50% before 2050 compared to 2007 across the entire world merchant fleet.
"Ideally, there might have been a reiteration of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) role in shipping, but for fiscal reasons and the high-level priorities of the conference, it wasn't possible to include that reference," Bennett told EBN. 'But that omission does not represent any problem because the work of the IMO will continue as it is required in the existing protocol."
The ICS said it will continue to engage in discussions with the IMO, which it said is "expected to begin in earnest at a critical meeting in April 2016, about the possibility of agreeing a CO2 reduction target for shipping."
"ICS is also pushing for IMO to finalize a global CO2 data collection system for ships, which ICS would like to see mandatory as soon as possible, prior to IMO deciding on the necessity of additional actions such as a developing a market-based measure," the ICS said.
In a more broad sense, the ICS said it "greatly welcomed" the agreement reached in Paris during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December.
"I am sure IMO member states will now proceed with new momentum to help the industry deliver ever greater CO2 reductions, as the world moves towards total 'decarbonisation' by the end of the century," Peter Hinchliffe, ICS Secretary General, said in a statement.
However, while the ICS says "China and India have now accepted responsibility to curb their emissions alongside developed economies," the Paris Agreement still retains "the principle of 'differentiation' whereby different Parties can offer different levels of commitment to reduce CO2."
"CO2 is a global problem and shipping is a global industry" Hinchliffe said. "IMO is the only forum which can take account of the UN principle of 'differentiation' while requiring all ships to apply the same CO2 reduction measures, regardless of their flag state. Unilateral or regional regulation would be disastrous for shipping and disastrous for global CO2 reduction, whereas IMO is already helping shipping to deliver substantial CO2 reductions on a global basis."
Meanwhile, merchant shipping emits a relatively small share of CO2 emissions compared to other players in the transport industry, especially compare to commercial trucking. According to the ICS, international shipping contributed 2.2% of total CO2 emissions in 2012, for example, while ships transport about 90% of world trade.
The shipping industry's long-term goal has been to reduce ships' CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, which it claims will be achieved ahead of schedule.
Shipping industry emissions are becoming lower thanks to new engine and hull designs, while more modern ship designs are significantly larger and are able to transport more goods on a per-volume basis while emitting fewer quantities of CO2.
According to the ICS, the latest generation of container ships carry the same amount of goods and products as 10,000 heavy commercial trucks, while only 1 gram of fuel is used to transport a metric ton of cargo one kilometer.