The Paris Accord, of ship-and-shore air, and other nautical insights

Come this Nov. 30th it’ll be five years since the 190-plus countries’ interested representatives convened for the now historic 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) climate summit held in Paris, France.

Then. When the conference ended on Dec. 12th – based on the agreed-upon, but-not-then-yet-ratified terms, not only among meeting attendees and agreement signatories but throughout the larger world as well – the feeling seemed a universal one that this time real constructive and, at the same time, substantive climate-progress work had been done. All seemed right with the world.

Now. With the summit firmly recorded in the annals of history, and with what now a half-decade passed, indeed much work remains in trying to bring balance or normalization to what an overwhelming majority of scientists believe is a climate undergoing human-driven change.

At the same time, it is by no means a stretch to suggest or, for that matter, to even go so far as to declare that prior to the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, emissions from the transportation sector had been on the rise.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that having to do with the marine-navigation sub-sector – and also before the pandemic was declared as a worldwide emergency – shipborne air pollution had been doing likewise.

On that note, to have a better sense of what the current situation is, provided next is a brief look back from the standpoint of emissions output of international maritime history during the 20th century’s final decade and the first 11 years of century number 21.

Years 1990-2011

In the European Environment Agency (EEA) report: The contribution of transport to air quality – TERM 2012: Transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe, the EEA observed, “Using current fuel sales data as a proxy for estimating total transport energy consumption in 2011, it appears that transport energy consumption increased by 0.1 % compared to 2010; however, this is still 4.3 % lower than its peak in 2007.… The greatest reduction was for domestic navigation (10.2 %)….”1

Reported also by the EEA in TERM 2012, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international maritime transport (IMT) edged up slightly from GHG in 1990 when it stood at a little above 100 million tons to just below 200 million tons in 2006, a nearly 100 percent increase, leveling off there until 2009 when such began to decline. That downward trend had continued at least until 2010. It is important to note that from 1990 t0 2010 IMT GHG rose by 34 percent.2


In a Jun. 28, 2013 press release, the European Commission expressed that “Emissions from the international maritime transport sector today account for 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 4% of EU [European Union] GHG emissions.

“Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, said: ‘Today we are charting a clear course towards reducing maritime greenhouse gas emissions. The EU monitoring system will bring environmental and economic gains for the shipping sector by increasing transparency about emissions and creating an incentive for ship-owners to cut them. … Robust monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions is an essential precondition for informed discussions in Europe and worldwide on reductions targets for the sector.’”

Chiming in on this in the release also was Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas who added: “‘… For a global sector such as maritime transport, this can best be achieved through the International Maritime Organization.’”

Now, to get a sense of what Transport & Environment has to say on the matter, from its “UN shipping body fails to implement its own greenhouse gas reduction plan: Hopes for bold action to reduce the global shipping sector’s huge greenhouse gas emissions were dashed this week when a ‘business as usual’ draft text was approved.Oct. 23, 2020 press release, it wrote: “In pursuing this outcome, many countries have actively worked to undermine the Initial Strategy goals of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and have knowingly broken their Paris Agreement commitment to pursue a 1.5/2ºC compatible emissions reduction.

“The impact of the decision at this week’s IMO Intersessional working Group on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships will not cap, let alone reduce, shipping emissions this decade.”

Furthermore, Faig Abbasov, shipping programme director at Transport & Environment, said: ‘Governments have ridden roughshod over the Paris Agreement by agreeing [to] a measure that will see ship emissions grow for decades to come. The UN maritime agency again showed the world it can only deliver cosmetic changes. EU countries should work through the European Green Deal to fill the gap left by the IMO.’”

The transportation and ecological concern moreover in the same release in elaborating further, added, “We cannot tell the public that progress is being made when their representatives come to IMO just to thwart CO2 regulation on the industry to protect short-term profits, rather than protecting their own citizens from the escalating impacts of the climate crisis.”

And, finally, Transport & Environment in the release in question explained: “The UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], in good faith, asked the IMO in 1997 to address the issue of GHG emission[s] from the global shipping sector. Let down by the IMO, the Paris Agreement also mandated countries to address shipping at the national and regional levels as part of their economy-wide national climate plans. All states must now look at this option in a more favourable light.”


  1. The contribution of transport to air quality – TERM 2012: Transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe, “Box 2.2: TERM 01: Transport final energy consumption by fuel – Transport energy consumption (EEA – 32 excluding Iceland and Liechtenstein),” EEA Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) report, No. 10, 2012, European Environment Agency, Nov. 27, 2012, p. 15, http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/transport-and-air-quality-term-2012
  2. Ibid, “Box 2.3: TERM 02: Transport emissions of GHGs – EU-27 transport emissions of GHG,” EEA Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) report, No. 10, 2012, European Environment Agency, Nov. 27, 2012, p. 16

Image above: NOAA

Published by Alan Kandel

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.