Experts in marine air pollution warn that the trade group representing cruise ship industry failed to push international authorities to relax new environmental regulations, despite their members' climate commitments. The International Maritime Organization rejected a proposal by the cruise industry to improve cruise ship carbon pollution scores. It would have allowed cruise liners to carry on their business as usual, according to environmental groups.
The Cruise Lines International Association, (CLIA), has 95% of all global cruise trip members. The four largest members of the CLIA, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and MSC Cruises, are known for their climate awareness and have committed to significantly reducing emissions.
According to a April filing, the cruise ship association lobbied members of the International Maritime Organization to modify proposed rules in a way critics claim will increase emissions while saving money for cruise lines.
The International Maritime Organization (UN body) is responsible for regulating shipping's safety and environmental impacts. Its proposed legislation is voted on by 175 members.
John Maggs, president and CEO of Clean Shipping Coalition, a group that includes environmental groups, stated that the proposed change would "certainly have had a detrimental impact on the climate," as he said.
Maggs, who is almost 30 years old in the field, said that "the regulations are very weak anyway and CLIA wants to make them weaker." They are trying to reduce the regulations."
The cruise industry claims that the new regulation is not fair and does not reflect the efficiency of their vessels. They should not be penalized for spending longer in port than cargo ships.
Shipping is responsible for 2.9% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. This amounts to just over a billion tonnes of CO2 per year. Studies have shown that cruise liners emit more carbon dioxide per year than any other type of ship because they use air conditioning and heated pools, as well as other amenities like hotels.
Carnival, which calls itself "sustainable from ship-to-shore", has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. This agreement aims to limit global temperatures rises to 1.5C.
Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises each committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Norwegian Cruise Lines, however, spoke of a "long term goal" to achieve climate neutrality.
All large ships will receive a Carbon Intensity Indicator, (CII) starting in 2023. This indicator is calculated by dividing the ship's capacity and then by the distance traveled.
It will award ships an A-E sustainability rating. A ship that receives a poor rating must submit a plan to improve its score to at least C. However, there are currently no penalties for ships with bad ratings.
The trade group lobbied the International Maritime Organization to allow cruise ships special treatment. Their vessels are different from cargo ships due to the long stays in port that cruise lines have, often with engines running to keep the lights on. Cruise ships are less rated because they emit more carbon per mile for their time in port.
According to the industry, "In-port emissions have an disproportionate effect" on ships' carbon intensity grades.
Bill Weihl is a former sustainability chief at Google and Facebook. He founded Climate Voice to encourage employees to push their companies into taking climate action. It's a familiar story for U.S. businesses.
"They claim, and sometimes do, good things about climate while their trade associations block and delay behind the scenes."
According to the cruise ship trade group, if their alternative proposal was not approved, regulations that will come into effect in 2023 will create an 'unsane incentive' for ships that they stay at sea longer in order to improve their rating. They claim that this could lead to higher total emissions.
Experts in marine pollution argue that this argument is not valid because operators can't be penalized for poor ratings and ships cannot be stopped from sailing.
"Additional time at sea will mean more fuel costs. Bryan Comer, the International Council on Clean Transportation's marine program leader, said that it would hurt their bottom line. He said that cruise ships would emit less if the trade group was successful in the long-term because they would have less incentive to invest in technologies that reduce their emissions, such as fuel cells and shore power.
They could keep doing business as usual, but still get more favorable scores. This would indicate that they are less carbon-intensive than they actually are.
Germany, France, and Denmark argued for more stringent measures during negotiations about the legislation. A vessel that languished with a D or an E rating for too long should have its environmental certificate revoked. This would prohibit it legally from sailing.
Roger Frizzell, Carnival's spokesperson, denied that there was any disconnect between company statements regarding climate and trade group efforts before the maritime agency.
According to the company, it could be counterproductive to its goal to reduce real-world emissions by following the rules as they are written.
He stated that "we peaked our absolute emission in 2011".
According to the firm, it is against metrics that might encourage overall emissions increases.
Frizzell stated that the amount of carbon dioxide generated during a port visit is lower than on a voyage. However, the pollution ratings for cruise liners will be extremely high. Because the distance traveled is zero.
The trade group released a statement saying that "CLIA and its members as cruise lines are fully committed to pursuing net zero carbon cruising by 2050."
They are in favor of rating vessels based on their carbon emission rate, but they argue that the current system does not accurately measure total carbon dioxide emissions.
"We call for the CII formula be modified so that it doesn't unintentionally work against absolute CO reduction by incentivizing ships to travel greater distances to improve their rating."
International Maritime Organization asked the cruise ship industry for a proposal. It was due by 2026.
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises did not comment. Instead, they directed The Associated Press towards the statement of CLIA.
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