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Reducing emissions from the shipping sector

Shipping is a large and growing source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. The European Union wants a global approach taken to reducing emissions from international shipping. As a first step towards cutting emissions, the European Commission has proposed that owners of large ships using EU ports should report their verified emissions from 2018.

Port of Oakland, California, USA© Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Digital Vision

Emissions from the global shipping industry amount to around 1 billion tonnes a year, accounting for 3% of the world's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 4% of the EU's total emissions. Without action, these emissions are expected to more than double by 2050. This is not compatible with the internationally agreed goal of keeping global warming below 2°C, which requires worldwide emissions to be at least halved from 1990 levels by 2050.

Towards global action

The European Union and its Member States have a strong preference for a global approach to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This should include the use of global market-based measures (MBMs).

Considerable efforts have been made over recent years, within both the IMO and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to reach such an agreement. In 2011 IMO made progress by adopting the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which sets compulsory energy efficiency standards for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), a management tool for ship owners.

However, the international discussions have yet to bring agreement on global MBMs or other instruments that would cut GHG emissions from the international maritime transport sector as a whole, including existing ships.

See leaflet Time for international action on CO2 emissions from shippingpdf(188 kB) Choose translations of the previous link 

The EU's strategy

The Commission's 2011 White Paper on transport suggests that the EU's CO2 emissions from maritime transport should be cut by at least 40% of 2005 levels by 2050, and if feasible by 50%. However, international shipping is not covered by the EU's current emissions reduction target.

In June 2013 the European Commission set out a strategypdf(97 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  for progressively integrating maritime emissions into the EU's policy for reducing its domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The strategy consists of three consecutive steps:

  • Monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from large ships using EU ports;
  • Greenhouse gas reduction targets for the maritime transport sector;
  • Further measures, including MBMs, in the medium to long term.

First step: monitor and report emissions

At the same time as publishing a Communication setting out the strategy, the Commission put forward a legislative proposalpdf(216 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  as the first step in the strategy.

The Commission proposal has been adopted on 29 April 201 as  Regulation (EU) 2015/757 on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, and amending Directive 2009/16/EC. This Regulation seeks to establish an EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) emissions from large ships using EU ports.

The shipping MRV Regulation will apply to shipping activities carried out from 1 January 2018 in relation to EU ports.

The EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying shipping emissions is designed to contribute to building an international system. First steps in this direction have already been taken at the IMO, with active support from the EU and partner countries. By yielding further insights into the sector's potential to reduce emissions, the EU- shipping MRV system will also provide new opportunities to agree on efficiency standards for existing ships.

The Shipping MRV Regulation creates an EU-wide legal framework for collecting and publishing verified annual data on CO2 emissions and energy-efficiency related information from all large ships (over 5 000 gross tons) that use EU ports, irrespective of where the ships are registered.

From January 2018 onwards, companies will have to monitor and report the verified amount of CO2 emitted by their large ships on voyages to, from and between EU ports. Companies are also required to provide certain other aggregated annual information, such as data to determine the ships' energy efficiency.

A valid document of compliance issued by an independent verifier has to be carried on board of ships having performed shipping activities falling under the shipping MRV Regulation during the previous year when visiting EU ports  and might be subject to inspection by Member States' authorities.

Reduced emissions and costs

The MRV system is expected to cut CO2 emissions from the journeys covered by up to 2% compared with a 'business as usual' situation, according to the Commission's impact assessment. The system would also reduce net costs to owners by up to €1.2 billion per year in 2030.

In addition it will provide useful insights into the performance of individual ships, their associated operational costs and potential resale value. This will benefit ship owners, who will be better equipped to take decisions on major investments and to obtain the corresponding finance.

Consultation and research

The approach proposed by the Commission is the result of extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders in various fora. These include a working group under the Second European Climate Change Programme (ECCP II), three meetings in 2011 of a High Level Platform on greenhouse gas emissions from ships, a public consultation in early 2012 and an ad hoc stakeholder meeting in December 2012.

The Commission's approach is also based on a number of research studies (see Studies tab at the top of this page) which show that an MRV system will help overcome a lack of information and other market barriers which are currently preventing the shipping sector from fully tapping its high potential to reduce emissions.