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Climate change: Speed limits for ships can have ‘massive’ benefits

PortandTerminal.com, November 11, 2019

Shipping generates roughly 3% of the global total of warming gases – that’s roughly the same quantity as emitted by Germany. One way to reduce its CO2 impact on the world is “Slow Steaming”, aka setting speed limits for vessels

LONDON, ENGLAND – Most of the world’s governments will have delegations in London this week for the next round of talks at the UN’s International Maritime Organisation.

While shipping wasn’t covered by the Paris climate agreement, last year the industry agreed to cut emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

On the agenda in London this week will be to discuss ways to do just that – reduce the maritime industry’s oversized CO2 impact on the world.

One way to do that is “slow steaming” aka setting speed limits for vessels. Cutting the speed of ships has huge benefits for humans, nature and the climate, according to a new report. This new study, carried out for campaign groups Seas at Risk and Transport & Environment builds on existing research that suggests that slowing down ships works if you want to curb greenhouse gases.

As ships travel more slowly they burn less fuel, which means there are also savings in black carbon, sulphur and nitrogen oxides. The last two, in particular, have serious impacts on human health, particularly in cities and coastal areas close to shipping lanes.

A 20% reduction would cut greenhouse gases but also curb pollutants that damage human health such as black carbon and nitrogen oxides. This speed limit would cut underwater noise by 66% and reduce the chances of whale collisions by 78%.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for slow-steaming as part of France’s Green Shipping Revolution

“We will engage with shipping companies to reduce speed the speed of merchant ships. It is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally, and this measure would be a real change.”

Emmanuel Macron, President of France

A large section of the French maritime sector recently voted to limit pollution by reducing ships’ speed, a move supported by President Emmanuel Macron who pushed for the measure at the 45th G7 summit held in Biarritz, France last August.

Download a copy of the study here:

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