EU lawmakers agreed to gradually reduce big ships’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2% as of 2025 and by 80% as of 2050, in a push to help the EU maritime sector to become climate neutral.
1. FuelEU Maritime
The agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council, on March 23, is part of the FuelEU Maritime initiative, a key element of the EU’s Fit for 55 package, which also seeks to increase the demand for and consistent use of renewable and low-carbon fuels.
Deal reached on FuelEU Maritime! 🥳— EU Transport (@Transport_EU) March 23, 2023
A new law to cut transport emissions by promoting sustainable fuels in shipping! Putting EU maritime transport on the path to becoming climate neutral by 2050. 🚢#EUGreenDeal #MobilityStrategy pic.twitter.com/jtvpzEdhKm
Policymakers agreed to reduce GHG emissions by 2% as of 2025, 6% as of 2030, 14,5% as of 2035, 31% as of 2040, 62% as of 2045 and 80% as of 2050. This gradual reduction would apply to ships above a gross tonnage of 5000, which are in principle responsible for 90% of CO2 emissions. The measures also contemplate a reduction of all the energy consumed on board in or between EU ports, as well as to 50% of energy used on voyages where the departure or arrival port is outside of the EU or in EU outermost regions.
The agreement will ensure a level playing field and make sure that fuel suppliers, ships and maritime operators will have sufficient time to adapt for the new conditions so the maritime sector will deliver on the climate targets.Andreas Carlson, Swedish minister of infrastructure and housing
Research, development and innovation key for achieving the objectives laid down in the FuelEU Maritime regulation— WaterborneTP (@WaterborneTP) March 27, 2023
The full press release is available here: https://t.co/UcH0dwqiBv#horizoneurope #EUPartnerships pic.twitter.com/Gcl7qoDEPR
MEPs ensured that the EU executive will review the rules by 2028 to decide whether to extend emission-cutting requirements to smaller ships or to increase the share of the energy used by ships coming from non-EU countries.
In 2019, transport was responsible for about a quarter of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, according to the European Environment Agency, of which 14% were attributed to water navigation.
2. Tackling maritime emissions
Currently, the fuel mix in the maritime sector relies entirely on fossil fuels. To achieve climate neutrality, the EU needs to reduce transport emissions, including from maritime transport, by 90% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
As part of the agreement, more credits will be given to encourage ship owners who use renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO) from 2025 to 2034. The deal also set a 2% renewable fuels usage target as of 2034 if the European Commission reports that in 2031 RFNBO amount to less than 1% in fuel mix, the Parliament stated.
“No other global power has drafted such a comprehensive framework to tackle maritime emissions. This is truly ground-breaking,” said MEP Jörgen Warbon, noting that this legislation will “force others to move too”.
Adina Valea, Commissioner for Transport, hailed the agreement saying it will send a clear signal to the sector across the value chain, from shipowners and operators to fuel producers, shipyards and equipment manufacturers, that it is worthwhile and necessary to invest in sustainable maritime fuels and zero-emission technologies.
3. Maritime sector
In an unusual display of consensus between shipping and environmental groups, Transport & Environment’s (T&E) sustainable shipping officer, Delphine Gozillon said “the decision marks the beginning of the end of dirty fuels in shipping”. Nonetheless, T&E cautioned that there were few options currently in terms of sustainable fuels for deep-sea shipping and urged policymakers to pay attention to potential “loopholes” in the legislation that could “risk letting biofuels and low-carbon fuels in the backdoor”.
Jim Corbett, the World Shipping Council’s environmental director in Europe, welcome the agreement that “will evaluate fuels on their GHG performance across their full lifecycle”. Corbett expressed confidence that the legislation, which he sees as “effective and technology neutral”, will drive the supply of alternative fuels and ensure reductions in GHG emissions.
The maritime sector contributes to around 75% of EU external trade volumes and 31% of EU internal trade volumes, making it an essential component of Europe’s transport system and the economy.