Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Trade-linked shipping CO2 emissions

Abstract

The ambitious targets for shipping emissions reduction and challenges for mechanism design call for new approaches to encourage decarbonization. Here we build a compound model chain to deconstruct global international shipping emissions to fine-scale trade flows and propose trade-linked indicators to measure shipping emissions efficiency. International maritime trade in 2018 contributes 746.2 Tg to shipping emissions of CO2, of which 17.2% is contributed from ten out of thousands of trade flows at the country level. We argue that potential unfairness exists if allocating shipping emissions responsibility to bilateral traders due to external beneficiaries. However, a huge shipping emissions-reduction potential could be expected by optimizing international trade patterns, with a maximum reaching 38% of the current total. Our comprehensive modelling system can serve as a benchmark tool to support the construction of a systematic solution and joint effort from the shipping industry and global trade network to address climate change.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Distribution of international shipping emissions resulting from the VoySEIM and the GTEMS model.
Fig. 2: International shipping CO2 emissions and trade-emissions efficiency matrix.
Fig. 3: Characteristics of shipping CO2 emissions of international trade commodities.
Fig. 4: Shipping emissions changes in CO2 by optimizing trade partners.

Data availability

The AIS data and STSD are restricted to the third party and used under licence for the current study. Trade data including the BACI database (http://www.cepii.fr/CEPII/en/bdd_modele/presentation.asp?id=37), UN Comtrade database (https://comtrade.un.org/data), the US census (https://usatrade.census.gov/) and the Eurostat database (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database) are all publicly available, with details described in the Methods. Emissions data are available from the corresponding author upon request. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

Python codes used during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

References

  1. 1.

    Review of Maritime Transport 2019 (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2019); https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/rmt2019_en.pdf

  2. 2.

    Fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas Study (International Maritime Organization, 2020).

  3. 3.

    Bows-Larkin, A., Anderson, K., Mander, S., Traut, M. & Walsh, C. Shipping charts a high carbon course. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 293–295 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Peters, G. P. et al. Carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow amidst slowly emerging climate policies. Nat. Clim. Change 10, 3–6 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Crippa, M. et al. Fossil CO2 Emissions of All World Countries—2020 Report (Publications Office of the European Union, 2020); https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/report_2020

  6. 6.

    Capaldo, K., Corbett, J. J., Kasibhatla, P., Fischbeck, P. & Pandis, S. N. Effects of ship emissions on sulphur cycling and radiative climate forcing over the ocean. Nature 400, 743–746 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Doelle, M. The Paris Agreement: historic breakthrough or high stakes experiment? Clim. Law 6, 1–20 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Traut, M. et al. CO2 abatement goals for international shipping. Clim. Policy 18, 1066–1075 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships MEPC.304(72) (Marine Environment Protection Committee, 2018); https://wwwcdn.imo.org/localresources/en/KnowledgeCentre/IndexofIMOResolutions/MEPCDocuments/MEPC.304(72).pdf

  10. 10.

    2012 Guidelines of the Method of Calculation of the Attained Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for New Ships MEPC.212(63); Annex 8 (Marine Environment Protection Committee, 2012); https://wwwcdn.imo.org/localresources/en/KnowledgeCentre/IndexofIMOResolutions/MEPCDocuments/MEPC.212(63).pdf

  11. 11.

    2012 Guidelines for the Development of a Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) MEPC.212(63); Annex 9 (Marine Environment Protection Committee, 2012); https://wwwcdn.imo.org/localresources/en/OurWork/Environment/Documents/213(63).pdf

  12. 12.

    Guidelines for Voluntary Use of the Ship Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator MEPC.213(65) (Marine Environment Protection Committee, 2009); https://gmn.imo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Circ-684-EEOI-Guidelines.pdf

  13. 13.

    Shi, Y. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping: is it time to consider market-based measures? Mar. Policy 64, 123–134 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Bouman, E. A., Lindstad, E., Rialland, A. I. & Strømman, A. H. State-of-the-art technologies, measures, and potential for reducing GHG emissions from shipping—a review. Transp. Res. D 52, 408–421 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Mallouppas, G. & Yfantis, E. A. Decarbonization in shipping industry: a review of research, technology development, and innovation proposals. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9040415 (2021).

  16. 16.

    Balcombe, P. et al. How to decarbonise international shipping: options for fuels, technologies and policies. Energy Convers. Manag. 182, 72–88 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Report of its Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice on the Fourth Session Held in Geneva from 16 to 18 December 1996 FCCC/SBSTA/1996/9/Add.1 (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1996); https://unfccc.int/documents/1439

  18. 18.

    Corbett, J. J. & Fischbeck, P. Emissions from ships. Science 278, 823–824 (1997).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Cadarso, M.-Á., López, L.-A., Gómez, N. & Tobarra, M.-Á. CO2 emissions of international freight transport and offshoring: measurement and allocation. Ecol. Econ. 69, 1682–1694 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Heitmann, N. & Khalilian, S. Accounting for carbon dioxide emissions from international shipping: burden sharing under different UNFCCC allocation options and regime scenarios. Mar. Policy 35, 682–691 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Rahim, M. M., Islam, M. T. & Kuruppu, S. Regulating global shipping corporations’ accountability for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the seas. Mar. Policy 69, 159–170 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    den Elzen, M. G. J., Oilvier, J. G. J. & Berk, M. M. An Analysis of Options for Including International Aviation and Marine Emissions in a Post-2012 Climate Mitigation Regime (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2007).

  23. 23.

    Selin, H., Zhang, Y., Dunn, R., Selin, N. E. & Lau, A. K. H. Mitigation of CO2 emissions from international shipping through national allocation. Environ. Res. Lett. 16, 045009 (2021).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Lee, T.-C., Lam, J. S. L. & Lee, P. T.-W. Asian economic integration and maritime CO2 emissions. Transp. Res. D 43, 226–237 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Cristea, A., Hummels, D., Puzzello, L. & Avetisyan, M. Trade and the greenhouse gas emissions from international freight transport. J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 65, 153–173 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Martínez, L. M., Kauppila, J. & Castaing, M. International freight and related carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Transp. Res. Rec. 2477, 58–67 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Yoon, Y., Yang, M. & Kim, J. An analysis of CO2 emissions from international transport and the driving forces of emissions change. Sustainability https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051677 (2018).

  28. 28.

    Stojanović, Đ., Ivetić, J. & Veličković, M. Assessment of international trade-related transport CO2 emissions—a logistics responsibility perspective. Sustainability https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031138 (2021).

  29. 29.

    Nunes, R. A. O., Alvim-Ferraz, M. C. M., Martins, F. G. & Sousa, S. I. V. The activity-based methodology to assess ship emissions—a review. Environ. Pollut. 231, 87–103 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Johansson, L., Jalkanen, J.-P. & Kukkonen, J. Global assessment of shipping emissions in 2015 on a high spatial and temporal resolution. Atmos. Environ. 167, 403–415 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Liu, H. et al. Health and climate impacts of ocean-going vessels in East Asia. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 1037–1041 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Winther, M. et al. Emission inventories for ships in the Arctic based on satellite sampled AIS data. Atmos. Environ. 91, 1–14 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Jalkanen, J. P., Johansson, L. & Kukkonen, J. A comprehensive inventory of ship traffic exhaust emissions in the European sea areas in 2011. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 16, 71–84 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Schim van der Loeff, W., Godar, J. & Prakash, V. A spatially explicit data-driven approach to calculating commodity-specific shipping emissions per vessel. J. Clean. Prod. 205, 895–908 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Liu, H. et al. Emissions and health impacts from global shipping embodied in US–China bilateral trade. Nat. Sustain. 2, 1027–1033 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Adland, R., Jia, H. & Strandenes, S. P. The determinants of vessel capacity utilization: the case of Brazilian iron ore exports. Transp. Res. A 110, 191–201 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Prill, K. & Igielski, K. Calculation of operational indicator EEOI for ships designed to other purpose than transport based on a research-training vessel. New Trends Prod. Eng. 1, 335–340 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Streets, D. G., Guttikunda, S. K. & Carmichael, G. R. The growing contribution of sulfur emissions from ships in Asian waters, 1988–1995. Atmos. Environ. 34, 4425–4439 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Liu, J. & Diamond, J. China’s environment in a globalizing world. Nature 435, 1179–1186 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Andersen, O. et al. CO2 emissions from the transport of China’s exported goods. Energy Policy 38, 5790–5798 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Davis, S. J. & Caldeira, K. Consumption-based accounting of CO2 emissions. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 5687–5692 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Peters, G. P. & Hertwich, E. G. CO2 embodied in international trade with implications for global climate policy. Environ. Sci. Technol. 42, 1401–1407 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    The Existing Shipping Fleets CO2 Efficiency (UCL Energy Institute, 2015); https://wwwcdn.imo.org/localresources/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Documents/MEPC%2068%20INF%2024%20REV1%20The%20existing%20shipping%20fleet%20CO2%20efficiency.pdf

  44. 44.

    Cherkassky, B. V., Goldberg, A. V. & Radzik, T. Shortest paths algorithms: theory and experimental evaluation. Math. Program. 73, 129–174 (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Shipping Statistics Yearbook (Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics, 2017).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 41822505 and 42061130213 to H.L.). H.L. is supported by the Royal Society of the United Kingdom through a Newton Advanced Fellowship (NAF\R1\201166).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

X-T.W. and H.L. designed the research and wrote the manuscript. X-T.W., Z-F.L. and F-Y.D. developed the VoySEIM model and conducted the shipping efficiency estimation. X-T.W. and H-L.X. developed the GTEMS model. Z-F.L., F-Y.D., L-J.Q., M-S.S. and S-X.Z. performed the analyses. H-Y.M. and K-B.H. provided insights into the scenario design. All authors contributed to the writing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Huan Liu.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks James Corbett and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Discussion 1 and 2, Methods 1–4, Figs. 1–11, Tables 1–7 and references.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 2

Statistical source data.

Source Data Fig. 3

Statistical source data.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wang, XT., Liu, H., Lv, ZF. et al. Trade-linked shipping CO2 emissions. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01176-6

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing