Madness on the high seas and old father Thames.

April 10 saw activists assembling outside the London based UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) the scene of talks about whether to tackle carbon emissions from shipping or carry on with the planet-wrecking business as usual agenda.

Currently if the shipping industry were a country it would be the world’s sixth largest polluter, but nevertheless the Paris Climate talks of 2015 avoided dealing with this issue delegating it instead to the IMO.

In our globalised world 90% of world trade is carried by up to 50,000 massive merchant ships that are have a free licence to pollute. Shipping invariably relies on a carbon-dense, highly polluting form of diesel. Environmental activists wanted to see a 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 but the deal brokered in London pledges to only produce a smaller 50% reduction. A step in the right direction if… it materialises, but the myriad signs that climate change is advancing more rapidly than predictions show this falls far short what is needed. Who calls the shots at the IMO? Why is shipping such a big deal for the climate? Read more here.

Amongst fellow protesters were some near neighbours from Greenwich who have good reason to be exercised by the issue of marine pollution thanks to their own council. In 2012 Greenwich granted permission for a cruise ship port to be built at Enderby Wharf for short transit calls. If this were not bad enough, the terms were revised three years later to allow a bigger terminal with an enhanced capacity to service larger ships for longer periods.


The plans now allow for 240 metre-long cruise liners of 48,000 gross tonnes to spend up to three days “hotelling” in Greenwich. Up to 55 ship visits are expected annually in the cruise period from April to September. Undisputed estimates provided by GLA air quality consultants confirm that a cruise ship berthed at Enderby Wharf would burn approximately 700 litres of diesel an hour emitting the equivalent levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution as 688 idling heavy goods vehicles. Cruise ships typically burn diesel with one hundred times more sulphur than road diesel without mitigation such as catalysts of particulate filters. London’s cruise port will be in a densely populated area near to schools, a university and thousands of riverside new builds.


Campaigners are arguing for the modification of ships to allow the supply of clean ship to shore power to avert the consumption of these toxic fuels, the pollution of the area and resultant risks to the health of the population. Legal challenges to the plans have so far failed and the campaigners next move is to go the European Parliament.


This is clearly is an issue of grave concern for all Londoners and Sustainable Hackney supporters will, I am sure, want to support and take up the Greenwich campaign themselves.    


What you can do: Follow the link, sign the petition, write to listed Greenwich councillors, Sadiq Khan, Michael Gove. Raise with your own local MP, trade union branch, trades council.




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