Shipping has nothing to fear from the UK’s Climate Bill
Intertanko, the tankers’ trade association, told the BBC on Friday that it has calculated emissions from shipping to be around double those of aviation (actually, we already knew that – German researchers published the same findings in March this year).
Of course, comparisons in absolute terms are not meaningful, because ships carry a much larger proportion of the world’s trade. To transport a unit of weight a certain distance, freight aeroplanes produce 26 to 36 times the volume of greenhouse gases of ships (according to the Swedish Network for Transport and the Environment – see chart above).
The shipping industry regularly points out its relative efficiency and tends to argue against legislative burdens, such as inclusion in the UK’s emissions targets in the forthcoming Climate Bill or the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, that it fears would hamper growth.
A forward looking shipping industry should support calls from groups such as the WWF to include shipping in binding emissions targets, on equal terms with aviation and other modes of freight. As the incremental cost-per-distance would be lowest for shipping, its competitive advantage would be increased. There is a huge amount that can be done to make ships cleaner – shipping is a low intensity area of logistics but it has done very little to improve environmental performance – and a cost of emissions would stimulate investment.