Cape Town - Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping currently represent around 2.6% of total global emissions, but this could more than triple by 2050 if steps are not taken to speed up a transition in this sector too, according to a report by the International Transport Forum (ITF).
The report reviews port-based incentive schemes to reduce shipping emissions, such as environmentally differentiated port fees. Based on the findings of the report, the ITF recommends that the important role of ports in mitigating shipping emissions be acknowledged.
"It is clear that the impact of port-based incentives on global shipping emissions is marginal. The number of ports deploying financial incentives is still fairly low and where they are applied only a handful of ships are benefiting from the schemes – often less than 5% of the ships calling the port," the report states.
It found that the difference in fees for the dirtiest and cleanest ships is usually small - 5% to 20%.
The ITF points out that, following the Paris Climate Agreement, there are ongoing discussions at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to agree on an Initial Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Strategy by 2018 that will stipulate significant measures to mitigate emissions.
Many of these measures focus on ship design and operations. However, ports also have a crucial role to play in facilitating the reduction of shipping emissions.
Reward clean performance
According to the ITF, market interventions are needed to reward clean performance and there is support for flexible measures to drive behavioural change.
However, more emphasis is needed on monitoring, reporting and verification of the impacts of these measures, the report found.
"Higher rates of differentiation between vessels based on their environmental performance could drive more change and help the maritime sector to decarbonise faster," the report recommends.
"It is possible within the policies to differentiate fees according to type of vessel, which might be relevant within the context of country trade impacts."
The report recommends that the “polluter pays” principle be applied to all ships via a system of environmentally differentiated port fees, rather than as rebate for the greenest ships.
"A harmonised index or score assigned to all ships could be effective. It would be used as the basis for differentiated fees in all ports and used by shippers to report on their carbon footprint," the report concludes.
The report found that a number of port-based financial incentives to mitigate GHG emissions are already in place. The most common financial incentive used is the environmentally differentiated port fee.
This is applied in about 28 of the 100 largest ports in terms of total cargo volume handled (in tonnes) and container volumes handled (in standard containers, or TEUs).
In practice, this takes the form of a reduction of port fees for ship considered environmentally friendly, usually based on an index related to ship characteristics.
Despite the prominent place of such incentive schemes, very little is, however, known about their actual impact, according to the report.
That is why the ITF recommends that the role of ports in mitigating GHG emissions should be clearly identified in the updates of the nationally determined contributions.
It also recommends the expansion of port-based incentives for low-emission ships; linking port-based incentives to actual emissions; and moving to a more harmonised application of green port fees.
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