By Richard Black, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit
Shipping has historically been an overlooked sector in discussions around climate change.
This is curious, as shipping accounts for a substantial proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions, at over 3% and growing; if the sector were a country, it would rank as the sixth biggest emitter of CO2 in the world.
The problem is that shipping, including container ships which carry around 80% of global trade, is largely reliant on particularly dirty forms of fossil fuels, collectively known as marine bunkers, which are high in carbon and other pollutants such as sulphur.
But, as shipping is by its nature international, this poses a challenge in allocating emissions to specific countries. And thus it has largely been excluded from negotiations under the UN climate convention, which in 2015 reached the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.
For shipping and its multinational transport twin, aviation, responsibility for addressing emissions was hived off to other international bodies, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization(IMO). And both have for years dragged their feet on addressing the issue.