Shipping is a heavy burden on the climate. Their emissions account for just over two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This roughly corresponds to Germany's share, but the climate policy of the European Union has barely set any limits for the industry so far. And while many are discussing coal, combustion engines and air travel, marine emissions have been a concern for climate nerds.
Perhaps this will change now, because now you can measure the damage in numbers, the shipping in the EU causes the climate: According to a new report ships that were EU ports or departed from them, in 2018 a total of 139 million tons of CO2 in blown the air. If they were a country, they would be in eighth place in the Netherlands among the largest emitters in the EU.
The report, which is available on ZEIT ONLINE, comes from the Brussels organization Transport and Environment (T & E), which is committed to ecological transport at European level. The T & E experts reckon with officially registered with the EU emission data of individual ships, which were first collected for the year2018. In the EU database, the figures are only in raw form. The T & E experts have systematised them and compared them with the emission data of other sectors.
Europe's largest issuer
One-off result: a single shipping company, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) in Geneva, emitted 11 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018 - higher emissions than Ryanair, which is down to ten million tonnes, and almost as many as of the Leag-owned coal-fired power plant Lippendorf in the Lausitz. At the same time, it blew 11.7 million tonnes of CO2 into the air. Six more coal fired power plants emitted even more, five of them - Schwarze Pumpe, Weisweiler, Jänschwalde, Niederaussem and Neurath - are located in Germany. The largest issuer is the Belchatow power station in Poland.
Although the comparison with Neurath or Lippendorf a little, because the MSC calculated emissions are caused by many individual container ships - for a correct comparison would probably have to compare individual coal power plants with individual ships. But the ranking makes it clear: this is about relevant orders of magnitude.
This is also shown by the other comparisons from the report. For example, according to T & E, shipping in some - smaller - EU countries is higher than, or at least similar to, the emissions of all cars. In Germany, ships emit more CO2 than car traffic in the ten largest cities combined. And emissions from EU-wide container ship traffic are on a par with those of German industry.
Coal under pressure, not ships
But while coal, industry and transport are under pressure to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, Europe has barely regulated shipping so far - with the result that emissions in this industry have risen sharply in recent years rather than declining. And because shipping is growing with world trade, hardly anything will change in the foreseeable future. Unless politics takes countermeasures.
There is a risk that inactivity in the shipping industry will ruin climate change advances in other areas, the experts at T & E warn. They recommend that shipping be integrated into European emissions trading. The money that the shipping companies then pay could flow into a fund that promotes the development of climate-friendly engines.
Effective standards of efficiency, which are checked in real-life, could also contribute - they do not yet exist. And finally, the emissions that are already being reported by the industry should feed into the official calculation of the EU's climate targets for 2030 and 2050.
Done, the Paris Climate Agreement is in danger. The EU also signed the treaty at that time.