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Climate Action

Reducing emissions from the shipping sector

While maritime transport plays an essential role in the EU economy and is one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport, it is also a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, global shipping emissions represented 1 076 million tonnes of CO2, and were responsible for around 2.9% of global emissions caused by human activities.


These emissions are projected to increase from 90% to as much as 130% of 2008 emissions by 2050 for a range of plausible long-term economic and energy scenarios. If the climate change impact of shipping activities grows as projected, it would undermine the objectives of the Paris Agreement: a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

At EU level, maritime transport is a substantial CO2 emitter, representing 3 to 4% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, or over 144 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019.

To date, no adequate measures are in place, either at the global level or in the EU, to achieve the necessary emissions reductions for the maritime transport sector to contribute to the EU’s increased climate ambition. Additionally, reducing maritime transport emissions is part of the EU economy-wide reduction commitment under the Paris Agreement.

Although a global approach to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping led by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) would be the most effective and thus preferable solution, the relatively slow progress in the IMO has triggered the EU to take action and make new proposals to make sure maritime transport plays its part in achieving climate neutrality in Europe by 2050.

EU strategy

In 2013, the Commission set out a strategy towards reducing GHG emissions from the shipping industry.

The strategy consists of 3 consecutive steps:

  • Monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from large ships using EU ports
  • Greenhouse gas reduction targets for the maritime transport sector
  • Further measures, including market-based measures, in the medium to long term.

The contribution of the shipping sector to emission reductions consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement remains an important issue in the EU.

The recent amendment to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) Directive, by Directive (EU) 2018/410 of the European Parliament and the Council, emphasises the need to act on shipping emissions as well as all other sectors of the economy.

The Directive also states that the Commission should regularly review IMO action and calls for action to address shipping emissions from the IMO or the EU to start from 2023, including preparatory work and stakeholder consultation.

Delivering the European Green Deal with maritime transport

On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a series of legislative proposals to deliver the European Green Deal – the ‘Fit for 55’ package – setting out how it intends to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This is crucial for Europe to become the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Since all sectors need to contribute to the EU’s increased and necessary climate ambition, we have made several proposals to address maritime transport’s climate impact, including:

  • Extending the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) to maritime transport, thereby capping maritime transport emissions as part of the overall ETS cap, creating a carbon price signal that should foster the reduction of GHG emissions in a flexible and cost-effective manner, and generating revenues to tackle climate change and encourage innovation;
  • Boosting demand for marine renewable and low-carbon fuels, by setting a maximum limit on the greenhouse gas content of energy used by ships calling at European ports and by encouraging zero-emission technology at berth (where boats stay in ports), with a technology-neutral approach; 
  • Boosting alternative fuel infrastructures , which would set, among others, mandatory targets for shore-side electricity supply at maritime and inland waterway ports;
  • Accelerating the supply of renewables in the EU, through a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which increases the current EU target of at least 32% of renewable energy sources in the overall energy mix to at least 40% by 2030, with a focus on sectors where progress has been slower to date – including transport; 
  • Revising the existing Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), which aims to align the taxation of energy products with EU’s climate objectives and remove outdated exemptions, such as those for the intra-EU maritime transport sector.

This basket of measures reflects our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by addressing the various barriers to the decarbonisation of the sector (technological barriers, economic barriers, etc.). We are approaching this through two complementary angles: first, the improvement of energy efficiency (i.e. using less fuel) and, second, the greater use of renewable and low-carbon fuels (i.e. using cleaner fuels). These measures will allow the creation of a virtuous ecosystem for such cleaner fuels, as it boosts at the same time fuel demand, distribution, and supply.

In addition, alongside continuing to push for global action at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Commission will continue supporting research and innovation towards the decarbonisation of maritime transport, in particular through Horizon Europe and the Innovation Fund.

First step: monitor, report and verify CO₂ emissions

From 1 January 2018, large ships over 5 000 gross tonnage loading or unloading cargo or passengers at ports in the European Economic Area (EEA) are to monitor and report their related CO2 emissions and other relevant information.

Monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of information shall be done in conformity with Regulation 2015/757 (as amended by Delegated Regulation 2016/2071).

Four other legal acts are also relevant:

Main obligations for companies eligible under the EU MRV Regulation:

  • Monitoring: From 1 January 2018, companies shall – in line with their respective monitoring plans – monitor for each of their ships CO2 emissions, fuel consumption and other parameters, such as distance travelled, time at sea and cargo carried on a per voyage basis, so as to gather annual data into an emissions report submitted to an accredited MRV shipping verifier.
  • Emissions report: From 2019, by 30 April of each year, companies shall, through THETIS MRV, submit to the Commission and to the States in which those ships are registered (‘flag States’) a satisfactorily verified emissions report for each ship that has performed maritime transport activities in the European Economic Area in the previous reporting period (calendar year).
  • Document of compliance: From 2019, by 30 June of each year, companies shall ensure that all their ships that have performed activities in the previous reporting period and are visiting ports in the European Economic Area carry on board a document of compliance issued by THETIS MRV. This obligation might be subject to inspections by Member States' authorities.

Every year, the Commission publishes a report to inform the public about the CO2 emissions and energy efficiency information of the monitored fleet:

Inclusion of maritime emissions in EU Emissions Trading System (ETS)

To ensure that the maritime transport sector contributes to the EU’s increased climate ambition, the Commission is proposing to extend the scope of the EU's Emissions Trading System to cover CO2 emissions from large ships (above 5000 gross tonnage), regardless of the flag they fly. The extension will include all emissions from ships calling at an EU port for voyages within the EU (intra-EU) as well as 50% of the emissions from voyages starting or ending outside of the EU (extra-EU voyages), and all emissions that occur when ships are at berth in EU ports.

The proposal would cap maritime transport emissions as part of the overall ETS cap. It would result in a price signal that should incentivise improvements in energy efficiency and low-carbon solutions and reduce the price difference between alternative fuels and traditional maritime fuels.

The proposal builds on the provisions in place for other EU ETS sectors, as well as the existing EU Monitoring, Reporting and Verification Regulation.

In practice, if the proposal is adopted, shipping companies will have to purchase and surrender ETS emission allowances for each tonne of reported CO2 emissions in the scope of the system. Shipping companies will be attributed to an administering authority of a Member State that will ensure compliance using the same rules as for the other sectors.

To ensure a smooth transition, according to the proposal, shipping companies will only have to surrender allowances for a portion of their emissions during an initial phase-in period, reaching 100% after 3 years. A reporting and review clause is included to monitor the implementation of the rules applicable to the maritime sector and to take into account relevant developments at the level of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Interinstitutional negotiations

(last update: 27 February 2023)

The European Commission adopted its proposal to revise the EU ETS Directive and include maritime transport activities in the EU ETS on 14 July 2021. The European Parliament adopted its position on 22 June 2022, while the Council agreed on its position on 29 June 2022.

On 17 December 2022, co-legislators reached a provisional agreement to strengthen the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and apply emissions trading to new sectors for effective economy-wide climate action.

The provisional agreement requires formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. Once this process is completed, the new legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force.

If the agreement is formally adopted, as of 2024, the EU ETS will include the emissions from maritime transport, making the EU the first jurisdiction to put an explicit carbon price on emissions from that sector.

Shipping companies will pay for the emissions they have reported on the previous year. To ensure a smooth transition, co-legislators agreed on a phase-in approach. This means that in 2025, they will pay for 40% of the emissions reported in 2024; in 2026, they will pay for 70% of their 2025 emissions, and from 2027 onwards, they will pay for 100% of their reported emissions. This will create a price signal in line with the polluter-pays principle that provides incentives for decarbonising the sector.

All emissions from intra-EU voyages and within EU ports will be covered by the ETS, and half of the emissions for journeys to or from a non-EU country.

Global action

IMO Data Collection System

Following the adoption of the EU MRV Regulation, the IMO established an IMO Data Collection System.

The system requires owners of large ships (above 5 000 gross tonnage) engaged in international shipping to report information on fuel consumption of their ships to the flag States of those ships. The flag States then report aggregated data to the IMO, which shall produce an annual summary report to the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee.

The IMO system entered into force in March 2018 and the collection of fuel consumption data started on 1 January 2019.

As a result, from 2019, ships calling into EEA ports will have to report under both the EU MRV Regulation and the IMO Data Collection System.

The EU MRV Regulation (Article 22) anticipated this situation as it foresees that the Commission should, in the event of an international agreement on a global MRV system for shipping emissions, review the regulation and, if appropriate, propose amendments to ensure alignment with that international agreement.

In February 2019, the European Commission made a proposal to amend the EU MRV Regulation to take appropriate account of the global data collection system.

Initial IMO greenhouse gas strategy

After considerable efforts over recent years, the IMO agreed in April 2018 on an initial greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy.

In line with the internationally agreed temperature goals under the Paris Agreement, the strategy includes objectives to

  • reduce total annual GHG emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels
  • pursue efforts to phase them out as soon as possible in this century.

However, short-, mid- and long-term emission reduction measures, as well as research and innovation, necessary to achieve the objectives under the strategy remain to be developed and agreed.

In October 2018, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee agreed on a programme of follow-up actions to implement the initial strategy, with timelines for consideration and agreement on GHG reduction measures:

  • Short-term measures are to be decided between 2020 and 2023.
  • Proposals for mid- and long-term measures are to be considered, without mentioning the timelines for agreement.

The strategy will be revised in 2023, taking into account

  • data from the IMO Data Collection System
  • other data, such as reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

EU support to IMO energy efficiency project

The European Commission contributes €10 million funding to an EC-IMO energy efficiency project.

As part of the 4-year project, Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres have been set up in 5 regions: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

Through technical assistance and capacity-building, the centres will promote the uptake of low carbon technologies and operations in maritime transport in less developed countries.

This will also support the implementation of the internationally agreed energy efficiency rules and standards – Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).


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Frequently Asked Questions on the implementation of the MRV shipping Regulation

These Frequently Asked Questions aim to assist MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) companies, verifiers and other stakeholders to implement the European Union MRV shipping legislation. It requires ships carrying out maritime transport activities to or from EEA ports to monitor and report information including verified data on their CO2 emissions from 1st of January 2018.

The legal framework for these obligations is established under Regulation (EU) 2015/757 on monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, (the MRV Shipping Regulation) which has been amended by Delegated Regulation 2016/2072 and it is to be read in conjunction with Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/2071 and Implementing Regulations (EU) 2016/1927 and 2016/1928.

This document was prepared by DG CLIMA and does not commit the European Commission. Only the Court of Justice of the European Union is competent to authoritatively interpret the Union law.