UK includes shipping in its carbon budgets for first time

UK has announced its 6th Carbon budget and says it will include shipping and aviation that could put pressure on international talks to decarbonise international transport

The UK has likely pressure on international shipping and policy makers after announcing it will include shipping into its latest climate targets. It has published a new national target to slash its emissions (based on 1990) by 78% by 2035, and will include what it believes is its share of shipping and aviation emissions. It is one of the first countries to announce it will include aviation and shipping, something most countries have been reluctant to do since these emissions were left to international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed.


This change of approach has been welcomed by green lobby groups, who see it as closing a loophole, although the details of how the proposal will be achieved has yet to be finalised.


The UK will host the next UNFCCC meeting in November in Glasgow and wants to maintain a leadership position in driving forward emission solutions. This week, ahead of a digital climate meeting hosted by US President Joe Biden, the UK issued what is in fact its sixth climate budget. This aims to limit emission over a five-year period from 2033 to 2037, thus putting it more than three quarters of the way to reach net zero by 2050 should it succeed.


During a press briefing about the road to Glasgow for environmental journalists UK lead negotiator Archie Young responded to questions from Fathom World about the inclusion of shipping in its budget goals.


He said that while the UK remains committed to reaching a solution at the International Maritime Organization he recognised that by including an element of shipping into its own commitments will put pressure on discussions.


“This change allows for those emissions to be better accounted for consistently with other emissions, and so that we can see that more coherent and holistic approach”, he said. “We recognize that there are some risks that need to be managed, both in terms of the competitive market distortions and carbon leakage, but also the risks around accounting”.


He added that while the commitment to include shipping and aviation in the UK budget had been made, there was still the discussion of how it would be accomplished by 2025, but he agreed that this would put emphasis on the discussions in Glasgow at the end of the year and the ongoing talks at the IMO which has yet to get into the detail of any long term strategies such as market based measures on how to curb international shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


“The discussions in Glasgow are in no way intended to add pressure on any specific organization in that way. However, they will hopefully drive enhanced action, accelerated collaboration across a whole wide range of sectors, institutions, organizations, and across sectors,” said Young. “We hope that it will provide pressure across sectors that everybody needs to up their game because the Paris Agreement sets out that global collective target of where we’re aiming for, but it is for every single part of the system to really up their game and deliver their part of it”.


In a government paper on its 10-point plan for the future, issued late last year Downing Street wrote about its support o create sustainable aviation fuels and to invest £20m into a Clean Maritime Demonstration Programme to develop clean maritime technology. This includes the Orkney hydrogen fuel trials and a hydrogen refuelling facility in Teeside.


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