Shipping & Aviation emissions

 By Mike Scott

There has been a flurry of activity in climate change policy in recent months, including the ratification of the Paris Agreement within months rather than the years that many predicted. This has finally spurred action from the global shipping and aviation industries, which had come in for much criticism for failing to address the issue…

The pressure group Transport and Environment said: “Aviation emissions are responsible for 5 percent of global warming and shipping makes up almost 3 percent of global CO2. These sectors have a CO2 impact equal to the UK and Germany and are continuing to grow rapidly – by up to 270 percent in 2050, by which time they could account for almost 40 percent of all emissions.” The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations body that oversees the air travel industry, has introduced a global carbon offsetting system that has been widely criticized — it encourages airlines to pay for emissions cuts elsewhere in the economy rather than in aviation; it doesn’t come into force until 2021 and it is voluntary until 2027.

However, some 65 countries responsible for more than 80 percent of aviation activity have signed up to the first phases, exceeding ICAO’s expectations. ICAO’s shipping equivalent, the International Marine Organization, followed suit a few weeks after the aviation deal. It has imposed a cap on sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions of 0.5 percent, down from 3.5 percent today. That comes into force in 2020, and the IMO also said it would introduce a greenhouse gas reduction strategy in 2018. This includes a mandatory data collection system for ships of more than 5,000 metric tons.

Aviation emissions are responsible for 5 percent of global warming

Shipping fuel, also known as bunker fuel, is one of the planet’s dirtiest fossil fuels. The SO2 cap is likely to have a profound effect on carbon emissions as well as SO2 pollution by encouraging a switch to liquefied natural gas as a shipping fuel or the installation of SO2 scrubbers. But it is not just changes in fuel that will make ships cleaner – a host of innovations throughout the vessel will ensure that shipping fuel is less polluting and much less fuel is used. These range from anti-fouling coatings to new propeller designs – Wartsila has just announced that its new propeller can improve fuel efficiency by 5 percent – to the use of big data to optimize route efficiency and even giant kites that can cut fuel use by up to half in the right conditions.

Meanwhile, in aviation, manufacturers are using growing amounts of composite materials to reduce weight, technological fixes such as winglets, which cut fuel consumption by 5% and techniques such as managed descents. And while it has been a long time coming, the industry is also starting to adopt biofuels. Virgin is working with a New Zealand-based company called Lanzatech, which is making jet fuel from the emissions of a steel plant, while the US Navy has recently completed a successful test flight using biofuel. So while the industry-wide agreements are widely seen as not being tough enough, aviation and shipping emissions and fuel use are likely to fall thanks to technological advances.

SEE MORE: The growth of green aviation by RP Siegel

about the author
Mike Scott
Journalist. Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change, Investing, Energy, Supply Chain, Transport, Circular Economy, Stranded Assets, ESG, Smart Cities, Wealth Management, Family Offices, Asset Management, EU.