How the Shipping Industry Bought a Global Pass on Emissions
By Andy Rowell
The perceived wisdom is that the agreement is the best international mechanism we have to fight climate change and to keep global warming to below two degrees Celsius.
But it is not foolproof. It does not, for example, include all industrial sectors, such as the shipping industry.
A new report from the UK-based InfluenceMap alleges that "despite being responsible for close to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the shipping sector remains outside of the UN Paris Climate Agreement."
The report is released as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN body responsible for regulating global shipping, meets in London this week to discuss greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.
According to the IMO's own website, "Although shipping was not included in the final text of the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, IMO has set itself a long-standing mandate to contribute to the fight against climate change by addressing greenhouse gas emissions from ships."
However, the report alleges that even though the IMO has been trying to develop measures to tackle emissions from shipping nearly twenty years ago since being tasked by the Kyoto Protocol, the UN body has failed to do so.
This is because the shipping industry has aggressively lobbied the IMO to obstruct climate change action for shipping, meaning it remains the only sector in the world not currently subject to any legally binding emission reduction measures.
Some people, including those in the shipping industry, may turn around and say that three percent is only a small amount compared to other sectors.
However, a report by the European Parliament two years ago estimated that the shipping industry could be responsible for 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if left unregulated. It goes without saying that this would potentially jeopardize the whole emission targets set out under the Paris agreement.
So how has this been allowed to happen?
According to InfluenceMap, it has achieved this through "corporate capture" of the IMO. According to the report, "at the most recent IMO environmental committee meeting nearly a third of nations were represented in part by direct business interests linked to shipping."
Many individual shipping companies are "largely silent on climate risk." Instead, their lobbying has been led by powerful shipping trade associations which many people would never have heard off, including the International Chamber of Shipping, which represents some eighty percent of the merchant fleet, which has "led efforts to oppose action on climate change at the IMO."
It has been aided by the Baltic and International Marine Council and World Shipping Council. Together these three "have collectively lobbied to delay implementation of any climate regulations until 2023—even then refusing to support anything but voluntary regulations that may not reduce the sector's overall greenhouse emissions."
The report says there are exceptions to this, such as market leader AP Moller-Maersk, which transparently discloses its climate policy positions, appearing to support ambitious action on climate, and Sweden's Stena Line and national trade associations from Scandinavia, which also "appear supportive of action to decarbonize the shipping industry."
However, the shipping industry as a whole and the IMO needs a radical shake up to force it to take climate action. "This research highlights how lobbying by the shipping industry has led to the IMO's failing in its responsibility to act on climate change. If more pressure is not placed upon the industry to act, its increasing emissions will hamper the world's capacity to meet the climate ambition agreed to under the Paris Accord," said Paul Dickinson, Chairman of the Carbon Disclosure Project.
"These findings reveal an industry so resistant to climate progress that it has negotiated a sector-wide free pass on emissions," said Alice Garton, a senior lawyer at ClientEarth. "But no business is exempt from the effects of climate change and it's time for these firms to be held to account."
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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