UN climate negotiators should this year set a $25/tonne carbon tax on international shipping as one of several measures for the sector, an OECD-affiliated think tank said this week, a move rebuffed by the industry.
The International Transport Forum (ITF), an intergovernmental body of 57 member countries, made the recommendations in a discussion paper published on Monday, adding that that the levy would have a marginal impact on maritime trade while raising $26 billion for the UN’s Green Climate Fund and returning a portion of the cash to poorer nations.
An ITF spokesman stressed the paper represented a lower level of advice by its officials intended to stimulate wider debate, rather than a more formal move agreed by its membership, which is larger than the 33 OECD industrialised nations and includes China, India and Russia.
This didn’t stop the International Chamber of Shippping (ICS), a trade body for the sector, putting out a statement slamming the measures as “inappropriate.”
Along with international aviation, emissions from shipping have been excluded from the remit of the UNFCCC climate negotiations and are not in the latest draft Paris text, but a growing share of greenhouse gas output and has put the sector in the crosshairs of lawmakers and environmentalists.
Shipping accounts for around 3% of global emissions, but that is set to grow by 50-250% by 2050 without further action. The industry and its UN body IMO say they are addressing the issue, despite postponing a decision earlier this year on whether to set sector-wide emission targets.
Nations have been reluctant to tackle the sector, fearing any regulations could be unwieldy to administer while potentially hampering the 90% of global trade ships carry, but green groups are more hopeful that the wider UNFCCC body will drive progress more quickly.
PACKAGE OF MEASURES
The ITF paper said the reduction of shipping emissions would “gain huge impetus” if the Paris conference agreed an ambitious package, which could include:
- An absolute emissions target for shipping, related to reaching a 1.5C or 2C pathway.
“Considering the size of its current and projected emissions, it would be odd if countries are expected to adhere to emission targets but not the shipping sector, especially since it would be impossible to apportion shipping emissions to countries,” the paper said.
- A mandate for the IMO to develop an action plan with concrete measures to reach the mission target.
“In order to increase the link between the IMO and UNFCCC frameworks, the IMO could be requested to submit this action plan and annual progress reports for scrutiny to the UNFCCC.”
- A carbon tax for the shipping sector.
“This approach has the advantage of administrative simplicity . It would be easier to implement than any other market-based mechanism.”
The ICS questioned whether the amount of tax suggested was proportionate to the sector’s share of global emissions, adding that the industry was making progress towards achieving carbon neutral growth.
“While shipping may currently have CO2 emissions comparable to a major OECD economy, it is inappropriate for the ITF to propose that the industry should be treated like an OECD economy,” said ICS Secretary General Peter Hinchliffe in a statement.
It said a tax of $25/tonne would be almost three times higher than the carbon price paid by shore-based industries in developed nations.
It added that maritime trade is of vital benefit to rich and emerging economies alike, but highlighted that about 70% of the world’s merchant fleet is registered in UNFCCC ‘non-Annex I’ developing countries.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org