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INFOGRAPHIC - According to work published in 2007, the concentrations of CO2 and methane had increased by 36% and 148% respectively since 1750. These levels are much higher than at any time during the last 800,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores. Less direct geological evidence indicates that CO2 values higher than this were last seen about 20 million years ago.

Fossil fuel burning has produced about three-quarters of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years. The rest of this increase is caused mostly by changes in land-use, particularly deforestation. Another significant non-fuel source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions is the calcination of limestone for clinker production, a chemical process which releases CO2.


Combustion of fossil fuels generates sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, which fall to Earth as acid rain, impacting both natural areas and the built environment. Monuments and sculptures made from marble and limestone are particularly vulnerable, as the acids dissolve calcium carbonate.

Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere. In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning coal. It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island accident. Burning coal also generates large amounts of bottom ash and fly ash.






The greenhouse effect is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in a planet's atmosphere warm its lower atmosphere and surface.

It was proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824, discovered in 1860 by John Tyndall, was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, and the hypothesis was reported in the popular press as early as 1912. The scientific description of global warming was further developed in the 1930s through 1960s by Guy Stewart Callendar.

Human activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, methane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs, and nitrous oxide.


Calls from the European Parliament to reduce global emissions from shipping and its resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally is driven by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in particular SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water).


The tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change – such as the rise in sea level, ice loss and extreme weather – increased during 2015-2019, which is set to be the warmest five-year period on record according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). There is an urgent need to accelerate action.


As well as making seagoing ships and inland vessels zero-emission, the transition towards zero-emission waterborne transport will also require changes to infrastructure, ship design, shipbuilding processes, maritime equipment production, ports, alternative fuel terminals and processing plants, the wider logistics chain and more energy-efficient operations. Measures will also need to be taken in different action areas such as digitalisation (e.g. to allow better energy monitoring and to increase energy efficiency) and the education and training of the current and future workforce in order to ensure that the implementation of new technologies and concepts is properly executed.


To put this ambition and commitment into practice whilst taking into account the timelines set out in various regulations, there is a need to start the transition process now. In order to achieve true net zero-emission waterborne transport, the waterborne transport sector is determined to address all environmental challenges in an integrated manner, whilst prioritizing the impact on climate change, research, development and innovation will address the ambition to eliminate the entire environmental footprint of waterborne transport.




Planet earth is burning up from the burning of fossil fuels





Whilst the threats and risks of climate change and the harm from air pollution are known, policy actions have often failed to keep pace, despite increasing societal demand. To address this, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal in December 2019 with the objective for Europe to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, through the provision of a package of measures, which should enable European citizens and businesses to benefit from a sustainable green transition. The Green Deal sets out the Commission’s commitment to tackle climate and environmental challenges. To achieve climate neutrality, the European Green Deal envisages cutting transport emissions by 90% by 2050 at the latest. In addition, it lays down the ambition to reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% by 203018.


This communication builds upon a clear strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy (A Clean Planet for All), as communicated in November 2018. This strategy confirms Europe’s commitment to lead in global climate action and to present a vision that can lead to achieving net-zero GHG by 2050 through a socially fair transition carried out in a cost-efficient manner. It defines pathways for the transition to a net-zero GHG economy and strategic priorities.

At the international level, IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted an initial strategy for the reduction of GHG emissions from (seagoing) ships in April 2018, setting out a vision to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 50% compared to 2008 figures by 2050 and to phase them out as early as possible this century.


When the strategy will be reviewed in 2023, the level of ambition is expected to be considerably increased, not at least in light of recent scientific reports like the IPPC “Global warming of 1,5°C” report . In October 2016, the IMO MEPC also adopted the decision to reduce the sulphur content of marine fuels down to 0.50% as of 1 January 2020 in order to address the negative effects of related air pollution on health and the environment.


Industrial commitment and competitiveness Turning to industry, in January 2019 the Waterborne Technology Platform launched its vision regarding zero-emission waterborne transport in 205031, whilst – in addition – an emerging number of maritime and inland ship-owners have set net-zero CO2 emissions in 2050 or earlier as their target.


In 2018, more than 130 million tons of CO2 were emitted from seagoing ships above 5,000 gross tonnage visiting European ports, which represented over 13% of total EU transport emissions. Globally, shipping annually emits around 940 million tons of CO2, which accounts for 2-3% of total GHG emissions. Over two-third of the GHG emissions from ships sailing to or from European ports originates from container ships, tankers, bulk carriers and passenger vessels. To put this in perspective, if shipping was a country it would be the 6th biggest GHG emitter in the world. If no action is taken, these emissions are expected to increase by between 20% and 120% by 205051 (or by between 50% to 250% according to the third IMO greenhouse gas study.


Waterborne transport is one of the most efficient modes of transport in terms of CO2 per ton kilometer. However, due to its large scale, it still generates a substantial amount of emissions and each year seagoing ships consume around 300 million tons of fuel, emitting approximately 1 billion tons of CO2, which is similar to global aviation. In addition, as a result of residual fuel oils and the emission levels of existing older ships,  it is a major source of air pollution, particularly within coastal and port areas with a high density of population, but also on the mainland along inland shipping routes, since as air pollution travels long distances. Shipping accounts for 18 to 30 % of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 8% of the sulphur oxides (SOx) of total global air emissions. Just 15 of the biggest ships emit more of the noxious oxides of nitrogen and sulphur than all the world’s cars put together.




The earth being irradiated with solar energy and atmospheric CO2 bubble





European CO2 emissions from shipping are a major challenge. In 2018, more than 130 million tons of CO2, or around 13% of total EU transport emissions, were emitted from maritime ships over 5,000 gross tonnage visiting European ports. International and domestic shipping dominates CO2 emissions, whilst inland waterway transport cannot be ignored. The EU project, PROMINENT, calculated that inland waterway transport in the EU results in 3.8 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.

The world is not on course to achieve a temperature increase of well below 2°C and therefore urgent action is needed. Even if the energy mix used for waterborne transport is changed in accordance with the objectives of limiting the temperature increase and the economic developments are commensurate with this goal, shipping emissions are projected to increase by 20-50% between 2008 and 205065 (or by between 50%-250% according to the third IMO GHG study, to be updated in 2021).

Increasing the energy efficiency of ships has its limits and would not be sufficient to meet either the 2050 level of ambition of the European Green Deal or the targets of the Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships. Only a combination of zero-emission innovative solutions, fuels, operational approaches and technologies, triggered by ambitious regulations, can bring about the change needed.








Emissions of sulphur dioxide (SOx) from maritime transport affect air quality in the EU and globally. SOx emissions result from the onboard combustion of oil-based fuel products and are directly linked to the sulphur content in marine fuels used in maritime transport. SOx emissions are a precursor of PM2.5 and a major cause of acid rain. According to the European Environment Agency, shipping is responsible for 11.05% of EU NOx emissions and 11.05% of SOx emissions. Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) form smog, acid rain and eutrophication and are central to the formation of fine particles (PM2.5) and ground level ozone, both of which are associated with adverse health effects, including premature deaths. Concentrations of air pollutants from shipping can be much higher in coastal and port areas where it can be the dominant source of air pollution. While current IMO and EU regulations will reduce SO2 emissions from international shipping from 2020, emissions remain much higher than other transport modes. After 2030, NOx emissions from shipping are set to exceed all EU land-based sources.

The sulphur in fuel requirements that have been agreed by the IMO will cut SO2 emissions by 50-80 percent up to 2030, but in the absence of additional regulations, emissions will rebound afterwards. CO2 and NOx emissions are expected to further increase without additional measures. The IMO has designated the North Sea and the Baltic Sea as a NOx Emission Control Area (NECA) starting from January 1 2021. According to recent estimates by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), consisting of deposition modelling based on available emission scenarios, the annual reduction in total Nitrogen deposition in the Baltic Sea area will be 22,000 tons as a combined effect of the Baltic and North Seas NECAs and compared to a non-NECA scenario. However, a lengthy period of fleet renewal is needed before the regulation will show full effect, according to HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission). Thus illustrating the need for retro-fittable technologies as an essential tool to meet policy objectives. 


Inland waterway transport plays an important role in the transport of goods in Europe. More than 37,000 kilometres of waterways connect hundreds of cities and industrial regions. The potential for increasing the modal share of inland waterway transport is significant. Inland waterway transport, however, should act urgently to increase its sustainable advantage. Passing through the centre of towns and cities, an inland waterway vessel will produce approximately 11,000 kg of NOx per year, whilst a modern diesel car within the same area may produce less than 1kg of NOx per year. Other transport modes are becoming cleaner and inland waterway transport faces the risk of falling behind. Studies have analysed average emissions of IWT vessels on tonne-kilometres (as in the PROMINENT project).

PROMINENT calculated that 1.3 million m3 of gasoil fuel is consumed per year by inland waterway transport in the EU, resulting in 3.8 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, 51 kilotons of NOx and 2.2 kilotons of PM. The total external costs74 caused by the emissions to air add up to 1.09 billion EUR, of which 825 million for NOx, 140 million for PM and 126 million for CO2. It should be noted that inland waterway transport has been using low sulphur fuel since 2011.






Horizon Europe is the EU's next research and innovation programme starting in 2021, with the Green Deal


HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-07 Enabling the safe and efficient on-board storage and integration within ships of large quantities of ammonia and hydrogen fuels (ZEWT Partnership) IA to TRL 6-7 Budget € 20m Around €10m x 2 projects

HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-08 Enabling the full integration of very high power fuel cells in ship design using co-generation and combined cycle solutions for increased efficiency with multiple fuels (ZEWT Partnership) RIA TRL 5 Budget €15 Around 15 projects @ €1m

HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-09 CSA identifying waterborne sustainable fuel deployment scenarios (ZEWT Partnership) CSA €0.50 Around 0.51

HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-11 Hyper powered vessel battery charging system (ZEWT Partnership) IA TRL 6-7 Budget €14m Around 7 projects @ €2m

HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-13 Digital Twin models to enable green ship operations (ZEWT Partnership) RIA TRL 5 Budget €7m Around 7 projects A@ €1m per project

HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-14 Proving the feasibility of a large clean ammonia marine engine (ZEWT Partnership) IA TRL 6-7 Budget €10m Around 10 projects @ €1









RACE TO DEVELOP ZERO EMISSION MARINE TRANSPORT: The Elizabeth Swann is a Zero Emission Waterborne Transport or ZEWT. She is solar and wind powered with gigantic hydrogen (or ammonia) storage tanks. If all ships were like this, COP26 would be a breeze.










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