High Seas Project: Assessing the technical and operational scope for rapid carbon emission reduction from global shipping

Building on the IPCC’s 2007 report, the 2009 Copenhagen scientific conference on climate change made clear both the urgency and radical scale of reductions in greenhouse gases necessary if global society is to avoid the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change. The scale and immediacy of the mitigation challenge outlined in Copenhagen leaves no option but for all major sectors to implement measures to stabilise their emissions in the short-term before beginning a steep decline in absolute emissions within the coming decade.

Reinforcing this view, the first report from the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change in 2008 emphasised the need for global emissions to peak as early as 2016, similar to the 2015 date suggested in the influential Stern report. Against this backdrop, the challenge for shipping, as a fundamental factor in delivering globalisation, is stark.

This proposal tackles the challenge head on: how can global society’s dependence on a rapidly growing shipping industry be reconciled with the scale and rate of mitigation outlined in Copenhagen and more quantitatively described from a UK perspective by the Committee on Climate Change’s carbon budget approach and related pathways? Thus the aim of the project is to apply an interdisciplinary, whole-systems perspective to develop robust methods for determining the emissions arising from UK shipping and to explore potential technological and operational step-changes in international shipping to accelerate progress towards avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’.

Duration: April 2010 to September 2013

Funder: EPSRC


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