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Shipping added to new UK emissions targets

New commitment that will be enshrined in law means the UK will have to formulate policies to support radical emissions reductions for shipping

The UK’s sixth Carbon Budget will, for the first time, incorporate the nation’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions as part of a commitment to lower overall emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990

THE UK is to include international shipping in its new national emissions reductions targets.

The inclusion of international shipping and international aviation in the country’s sixth Carbon Budget, which covers the amount of greenhouse gases the country can emit between 2033 to 2037, is expected to be legislated by the end of June.

The commitment is part of a firming up of the country’s environmental commitments that will see the government pledge to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by at 78% compared with 2035.

“We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net-zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.”

This upgrade follows a pledge by Mr Johnson at the end of 2020 to reduce UK emissions by 68% by 2030. In 2019, the UK passed a law committing to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The newfound 2035 commitment adheres to the recommendations drawn up by the Committee on Climate Change, an independent advisory body to the UK government.

It recommended that the UK’s carbon budget from 2033 to 2037 be set at 965m tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is about 63% lower than 2019 emissions.

The new pledge also comes during a week when the US is hosting a leaders’ climate summit and where the US is also expected to announce new emissions initiatives.

The legal inclusion of international shipping in the sixth Carbon Budget means that the UK government will have to work to develop policies, measures and schemes that will ensure that ships using the country’s ports generate fewer emissions.

The government has previously said it will consider including shipping in a post-Brexit emissions trading system.

The Committee on Climate Change had reported in December that total shipping emissions accounted for 3% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 and were 21% below 1990 levels.

International shipping emissions accounted for just over 55% of the total 14.3m tonnes emitted by the whole sector.

“Emissions have been on a slow downward trend over the past two decades, with the past decade seeing reductions in domestic journeys around the UK coast and in international export shipping, plus falls in naval shipping,” the committee said.

The UK estimates shipping emissions based on the level of maritime fuel bunker sales.

This calculation method differs from the one the EU and the International Maritime Organization rely on, which is based on direct emissions reporting from shipowners.

The Committee on Climate Change recommended that the UK’s domestic and international shipping emissions could be reduced through fleet efficiency improvements, electrification especially in ports through greater shore power offering and finally through the deployment of zero-carbon fuels.

Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment congratulated the UK government for its upcoming law.

“Properly accounting for the emissions is essential, but we now need meaningful action to control greenhouse gas releases and prevent future emissions rising above pre-pandemic levels,” its UK policy director Matt Finch said. “In the process the UK can become a world leader of zero-emission fuels for planes and ships.”

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