World Ports Tackle Greenhouse Gas Emissions

More than 50 ports in 35 countries started a three-day meeting at the home of Europe's largest harbor.

Ports authorities from around the world gathered in Rotterdam on July 9 to adopt a plan to cut CO2 emissions from the activities of some 100,000 large ships sailing global waters. Alongside scientists, lawmakers and businessmen, officials from more than 50 ports in 35 countries started a three-day meeting at the home of Europe's largest harbor. They are looking at regulatory and technological ways of shrinking their contribution to global warming. But the setting of measurable common targets appeared to be a long way off as speakers differed on the maritime transport industry's contribution to global greenhouse gas emission -- put at anything from 1.4% to 4.5%.

Delegates did agree, though, that the shipping sector would grow by leaps and bounds, and that alternatives had to be found in order to save the planet. "The climate is changing every minute, even as we sit here," said Ogunlade Davidson, co-chairman of the United Nations' Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change.

Davidson told the gathering that technical alterations, including the use of hydrodynamics in propellers, could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 30% on new ships and 20% on older ones.

The potential existed to reduce the global fleet's CO2 emissions by 17.6% by 2010 and 28.2% by 2020, "but this will not be enough to offset the projected fleet growth," Davidson said.

Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation, told delegates his organization was working hard on setting greenhouse gas emission targets for the shipping industry to come into effect by February 2010. But this could never work if developing countries were excluded from obligation, he argued. The developed world accounted for only 25% of the world's merchant fleet, he said. "It seems completely incongruous that two ships, carrying similar cargo, loaded in the same port, sailing at the same speed and having the same destination, should be treated differently because they are registered under two different flags."

About 80 ports have been invited to sign the World Ports Climate Declaration once completed.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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