How should international carbon emissions in the aviation and shipping sectors be reduced?

Publishing date
02 October 2023
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Picture of the title of the 28/09/2023 newsletter

In July, the International Maritime Organisation agreed on a new worldwide strategy on emission reduction targets for shipping. At the start of September, Maersk – one of the world’s biggest shipping companies – unveiled the first ever vessel using green methanol.

International aviation, on the other hand, established the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA) and has a ‘Long-Term Global Aspirational Goal’ of net-zero emissions by 2050.

However, despite those developments, the two sectors are not yet on a trajectory aligned with the Paris agreement. While overall emissions have dropped by 30% in the EU since 1990, the trends of emissions in aviation and shipping continue to go in the opposite direction. They have increased by 29% and 26% respectively in the same period.

Three possible policy pathways could lead to improvement within the international framework of carbon emissions reduction.

First, the UNFCCC should change its accounting method to allocate international emissions to the countries of departure and arrival of ships and planes. Second, all new measures to align the two sectors with their climate pledges should be incorporated into international treaties and hence made legally binding. Third, minimum compulsory excise duties worldwide should be levied on the fossil fuels used by the two sectors and the revenues invested in scaling up alternative fuels.

The EU has so far been in a leading position worldwide. But it is important that it persists in its regional efforts to decarbonise both sectors, thus acting as a driving force for international change. 

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About the authors

  • Giovanni Sgaravatti

    Giovanni works at Bruegel as an Energy and climate research analyst. He studied Economics (BSc) at University of Venice - Ca’ Foscari - including one semester at the University of Melbourne, and holds a Master’s degree in Quantitative Economics obtained in Venice - having done the whole second year at the Economics School of Louvain.

    Before joining Bruegel Giovanni worked in the Productivity branch of the Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom. As a trainee he worked at the Delegation of the European Union to Chile and at BusinessEurope. His fields of analysis span from productivity to energy and climate change.

    Giovanni is an Italian native speaker, is fluent in English and has good working knowledge of French and Spanish.

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