Is The EU About To Ignore The Impact Of Shipping’s Black Carbon Emissions In The Arctic?

Reacting to reports that ahead of scheduled trilogue discussions on February 16th, the EU Council will remove mention of black carbon from a future review of the Fit for 55 Fuel EU Maritime Regulation, Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Sian Prior said:

“The EU’s Fit for 55 Fuel EU Maritime Regulation outcome being discussed in Strasbourg this week already fails to include a provision to regulate black carbon emissions, the largest source of shipping’s climate warming impact after CO2 – cutting any mention of doing so in the future is not only deplorable, it makes a complete mockery of the EU’s own commitments made in its 2021 Arctic Strategy to lead the world on reducing Arctic ship pollution”.

“Black carbon emissions have an disproportionate impact in the Arctic, a region already facing a climate breakdown set to lead to disastrous global consequences. Despite this, EU Council member states now reportedly want to eliminate any reference to black carbon in the regulatory review expected in 2026, claiming uncertainty and challenges in how to address black carbon”, said Prior.

Black Carbon Emissions from Ships
Image for representation purposes only

“The Clean Arctic Alliance is calling on the EU Council and Parliament to retain the reference to black carbon in a review clause which would ensure that black carbon emissions from ships are considered at the first review of the Regulation”, she continued.

As it stands, the Fit for 55 Fuel EU Maritime Regulation does not address black carbon – despite the Clean Arctic Alliance arguing for its inclusion – but it does include a review clause. This would mean that the Regulation would be reviewed in 2026, and black carbon must be explicitly included in the review. The danger now is that reference to black carbon could be removed.

Black carbon is a potent climate forcing pollutant with an impact over three thousand times that of CO2. The International Maritime Organization has already formally recognised that black carbon is the second largest source of ship climate warming, and it is responsible for around 20% of shipping’s climate impact (on a 20 year basis) . Black carbon has a disproportionately high impact when released in and near the Arctic – when emitted from the exhausts of ships burning oil-based fuel and settles onto snow and ice, it accelerates melting and the loss of reflectivity – the albedo effect – which creates a feedback loop that further exacerbates local and global heating. Learn more about black carbon here.

In 2021, the European Union’s Arctic Strategy committed EU member states to tackle black carbon emissions from shipping by promoting faster and more ambitious emission reductions for Arctic shipping and pushing for zero-pollution of shipping in the Arctic. Data shows that ships trading to/from EU ports contribute the greatest volume of black carbon from maritime transport reaching the Arctic.

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