Fiona Harvey Cancun – The shipping news

The global shipping industry gives rise to more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire German economy. Yet shipping has been all but ignored in international climate change negotiations. Shipping emissions were excluded from the Kyoto protocol, and from the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.

Though the shipping industry has made some moves to monitor and reduce its emissions, these have not yet resulted in industry-wide action.

The Carbon War Room, a grouping founded by Sir Richard Branson to try to enlist businesses in the battle against climate change, is hoping to change all that.

Analysts at the CWR have taken data on the energy efficiency of most of the world’s cargo ships, amassed by the International Maritime Organisation, and turned it into a form that businesses can easily understand.

They have rated the 60,000 ships from A to G in terms of their energy efficiency, with A the most efficient and G the least.

They are hoping that companies that have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions all the way through their supply chains will use the ratings to put pressure on their shipping partners to ensure that their goods are carried on highly rated ships only. Retailers are expected to be among the first adopters, because they lead the way in cutting their supply chain carbon footprint.

This is a no-brainer for companies wishing to cut emissions from their supply chain. Writing into the contracts that the shipping companies must use only ships rated at a certain efficiency and above could cut the emissions from a retailer’s transport by up to a third at a stroke, and at no cost to the retailer.

If many companies take up the CWR idea, it could push the shipping industry to make fleets more efficient, saving thousands or even millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.