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Predicted growth in shipping threatens climate change

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Shipping growth threatens climate change targets - report

Emily Shelton

24th September, 2010

Shipping industry needs to urgently adapt to avoid ‘dangerous climate change’ experts warn as emissions spiral

Shipping, considered one of the most carbon friendly modes of transport, is now a growing threat in the battle against climate change.

A new report, published by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, suggests ‘the global shipping industry’s carbon emissions could account for almost all of the worlds’ emissions by 2050 if current rates of growth continue.’

This would put the UK‘s target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, and other nations’ targets, at risk.

Dr Paul Gilbert, Lecturer in Climate Change at the University of Manchester, said: ‘In terms of tonnes kilometres shipped, [shipping] is the most efficient mode of transport, however … the sector is predicted to grow by up to 150-250 per cent … this will not be compatible with already high levels of climate change.’

John Aitken, Secretary General of Shipping Emissions Abatement and Trading, (SEAT) said: ‘Looking a current predictions if other industrial sectors continue to reduce emissions and shipping doesn't then the shipping proportion of green house gasses will steadily increase. I have seen a graph that says it could be 20% 2050. This is not a situation that would be tolerated for long.’

Currently shipping accounts for 2.7 per cent of global greenhouse emissions. If it was a nation, Aitken explains, shipping would lie behind Japan but ahead of Germany.

To avoid dangerous climate change, which is associated with a 2°C temperature rise, the report stresses the urgent need for the shipping industry to start process of decarbonisation.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is currently looking at an international deal to control shipping emissions, but experts warn decisions are slow.

Aitken explains the need for a trading scheme that applies to all ships with globally agreed emissions reductions targets. He told The Ecologist: ‘This can be quite realistically brought about. It is only politics that is holding it back.'

Dr Gilbert warned: ‘It will require a lot of behavioural change within the sector to reduce emissions’.

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