While the car industry has been a heavy focus of emissions reductions, the shipping industry has received little attention until now. Picture: REUTERS
While the car industry has been a heavy focus of emissions reductions, the shipping industry has received little attention until now. Picture: REUTERS

A single shipping company has outstripped all the cars in Europe’s 10 biggest cities to join the 10 biggest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters in Europe.

Data from environmental lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E) showed the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) emitted so much CO2 that if it was a country it would rank as Europe’s eighth-worst emitter behind The Netherlands.

It joins eight coal-fired power plants and budget airline Ryanair on the list of the top 10 carbon emitters in Europe.

MSC, which transports everything from electronics to fruit, emitted 11-million tons of CO2 in 2018, whereas France’s cars emitted 9.58-million tons.

Yet while the car industry has been a heavy focus of emissions reductions (especially from T&E), the shipping industry has received relatively little attention until now.

“A company that consumers have never heard of has joined the top-10 polluters list in Europe,” T&E shipping manager Faig Abbasov said.

“This industry doesn’t pay a cent for its carbon emissions and the EU has so far done nothing to curb its damage.

“European trade doesn’t have to be dirty just because EU leaders have neglected to clean up shipping.”

Abbasov insisted MSC’s emissions in Europe were greater than all the cars in The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and two other countries combined.

It backs up other evidence that the car industry has been targeted strongly largely because cars tend to be owned by individuals lacking the collective lobbying strength of the shipping or aviation industries.

The car industry is about to embark on meeting the EU’s new seventh generation of emissions rules (dubbed EU7), which demands a fleet average of 95g of CO2/km. This rule has dictated the timing of electric cars and long-range plug-in hybrid electric cars and SUVs on the continent, with car firms  needing the expensive technologies to offset their combustion cars.

Meanwhile, shipping is even exempt from paying fuel tax on its thick diesel fuels, handing them a €24bn subsidy a year, according to T&E.

MSC said the report gave an incomplete analysis of shipping emissions, but admitted some major breakthroughs in fuel and propulsion technologies are needed to shift the shipping industry towards a zero-carbon future.

It said it remains supportive of decarbonising the industry, and said its fleet improvement programme had resulted in a 13% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2015-2018.

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