ITF Policy Brief on Shipping and Climate Change: Shipping Emissions in 2050 Could Represent up to 14% of Total Global Emissions if Action Is Not Taken

The International Transport Forum (ITF) has released its latest policy brief, “Shipping and Climate Change: Where are we and which way forward?” The policy brief analyses the situation of maritime transport in the context of the upcoming UN climate change negotiations at COP 21, which is taking place from November 29 to December 11, 2015 in Paris, France. Greenhouse gas emissions of shipping are considerable and would need to halve by 2050 for attaining the goal of keeping global warming within a 2°C pathway. Instead, they are set to rise substantially, and the industry will have to take additional actions.

International shipping contributed to around 0.8 billion tones of CO2 emissions globally in 2012. This represented 2.2% of worldwide carbon emissions. Of these, 62% came from three sorts of ships: container ships, bulk carriers and tankers.

Since 1990, shipping emissions have doubled, despite a 10% decrease during the economic downturn between 2007 and 2012. The CO2 emissions from maritime transport in 2050 are projected to be between 50% and 250% higher than current levels, depending on how global trade increases in different scenarios. This would mean that shipping emissions in 2050 could represent up to 14% of the total global emissions.

If the shipping sector would apply a 2°C pathway, it would have to cut CO2 emissions from its ships to 0.4 billion tones by 2050 and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2080.

The key findings of the policy brief are:


  • Current measures will mitigate ship emissions to some extent, mainly through better energy efficiency of ships.
  • Lower speeds, higher utilization, better ship designs and alternative energy sources can further reduce ship emissions.
  • Sectoral and institutional complexities must be overcome to create impact.
  • A target for shipping emissions, an action plan for implementation and a carbon tax for shipping, the receipts of which could feed into the Green Climate Fund are needed.


The policy brief proposes a package for the shipping sector to mitigate GHG emissions from the industry, which is summarized in the following:


  • An absolute emissions target for shipping, related to reaching a 1.5° C or 2° C pathway.
  • A mandate for the IMO to develop an action plan with concrete measures to reach the emission target.
  • A carbon tax for the shipping sector.


Full text of the policy brief is available here.