Europe negotiates for the first time to impose on ships that navigate its waters the obligation to use a minimum of totally clean fuels. The proposal comes from Germany, has the support of Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium, and Spain is the key to making it a reality.
The governments vote to adopt a position at the European Council on June 2. The German initiative is that ships entering or leaving EU ports must use at least 2% "non-biological renewable fuels" in 2030. In short: green hydrogen (and its derivatives), which must be obtained without causing emissions. His plan foresees climbing to 5% in 2035, 12% in 2040 and 70% in 2050.
The objective is to achieve "a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, up to 70%", according to the official document of the German Government to which elDiario.es has had access. Maritime navigation accounts for 11% of all CO2 emissions from transport in the EU and between 3 and 4% of total CO2 emissions, according to calculations by the European Commission. It is a sector that can give a good bite to the cause of climate change.
Negotiations for the new regulation of marine fuels are in charge of the Ministry of Transport. However, negotiation sources say that Spain is wary of including this quota.
The idea of introducing this mandatory minimum is to act as a lever, stimulate demand, make the production of green hydrogen-based fuel cheaper and clean up a sector, that of ships, with a relevant load of CO2 and methane emissions.
Because, despite being a major polluter, maritime traffic has escaped the climate demands arising from the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Largely oblivious to the demands to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause the climate crisis, ships (transport and fishing) increased their emissions from 977 million tons of gases in 2012 to 1,076 million in 2018, according to the latest report available from the World Maritime Organization (IMO). The sector alone accounts for 3% of global emissions.
In fact, the IMO targets for 2050 are "to reduce emissions to 50% of what they were in 2008". "It is one of the few sectors that has not aligned itself with the Paris Agreement," recalls the Transport&Environment organization, which insists that the IMO's purposes "are insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5ºC in this century."
That is why the European regulation FuelEU Maritime was born, whose declared objective is "to increase the use of sustainable alternative fuels in maritime transport and European ports". However, according to the analysis of the German Government, the regulations leave cracks: "As the proposal now stands, we see a great risk that the climate objectives for 2050 will not be achieved, since the fuels that really reduce CO2 are expensive. and, therefore, they will not be the natural option of companies". That is why they advocate establishing a mandatory minimum quota of 2%.
Without it, his analysis continues, "ships will be allowed to use cheaper fossil fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and continue to comply with the regulation." In other words, continue to choose the gas, even though it emits greenhouse gases, because it is less expensive.
Because natural gas (in this case liquefied to power the engines) has received the green label from the European Union to facilitate the transition to clean sources. Spain showed its disagreement on this rating which finally came through.
This label has been one of the loopholes that the gas sector has found to join the expected hydrogen boom, as reported by the Corporate Europe Observatory group, that reviewed the lobbying activity of gas companies so that the hydrogen obtained thanks to natural gas counts as clean energy.
With everything, maritime transport still seems to have room to continue operating with fossil fuels: The draft Law on Sustainable Mobility includes liquefied natural gas among the "priority alternative energies" for "improving air quality in port environments" together with electricity, green hydrogen and advanced biofuels.
On the other hand, the quota defended by Germany "tries to ensure a demand for the cleanest fuels that emit the least CO2, which are renewables of non-biological origin." The German conclusion is that "an accelerated use will help to increase production earlier, which will reduce the costs of generating the fuel and increase demand."
Transport & Environment has calculated that a mandatory quota of 6% of green hydrogen in ships would lead to a "guaranteed" demand of 800,000 tons in 2030. Spain would be among the main buyers with more than 100,000 tons.
And, to top it off in the context of the war in Ukraine, the organization assures that this amount of new fuel "would cut energy dependence on Russian hydrocarbons by two million tons."