Blog: EDF Europe

Wanted: An ambitious target to drive investment in clean shipping

If you’ve ever been to a port, you’ve likely been awed by the giant vessels lining the docks. These ships, some capable of carrying hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cargo across oceans, are not only impressive but inherently efficient and capable of significant improvements, if designed to with the newest advancements in naval engineering and technology. However, as the number of ships taking to the seas increases to meet the global demand for cargo, so does the shipping sector’s carbon emissions, which currently represents 2.6% of global emissions, equivalent to the emissions of Germany.[1] Yet the industry remains the only sector without a quantifiable climate emission reduction target and mitigation policy.

That may change this month, when the shipping sector’s global standard setting body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), will meet to decide an Initial Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Strategy. The IMO has been discussing shipping’s approach to reducing emissions for 20 years, but with increasing international pressure, thanks in part to the signing of the UN Paris Agreement, the IMO has now set a deadline to approve an initial strategy.

As delegates gather on the banks of the Thames and the behind the scenes talks heat up, the expected outcome from the negotiations will be a quantified emission reduction target for a date this century. The policies that will be needed to ensure this target becomes a reality will then be officially discussed. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) urges the IMO to take the opportunity to agree an ambitious target in line with the Paris Agreement’s vision to maintain global temperatures ‘well below 2°C pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’. This will enable the sector to regain the moral green high ground and significantly reduce the risks posed by climate change, helping, for example, the survival of small island developing states that are at risk from multiple climate change impacts.

An ambitious, but proportionate emissions target

A proportionate and achievable emissions reduction target for the shipping sector, in line with the Paris Agreement would be a 70-100% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 from 2008 levels.[2] The technology pathways to deliver this goal are known and the technologies are increasingly becoming commercially available. It is unlikely that one silver bullet technology will be used and this will encourage diversity in the shipping supply chain. For example, battery and solar panel technology from the electric car and renewable energy sectors are already being applied to both short-distance ferries in Norway[3] and cargo ships in China.[4] Alternative fuels are also coming to market including gas, methanol and ammonia[5], which could allow countries such as Brazil to harness their extensive experience in this sector and so benefit.[6] Experience shows that the pairing of ambitious targets with well-designed policies can propel the surprisingly rapid development and deployment of low- and even zero-carbon solutions. For instance, in 2017 the UK propelled to 7th place on the low-carbon electricity league table up from 20th place in 2012[7] thanks to a combination of clear targets, carbon pricing and deployment support policies that gave companies and investors confidence to invest in new technologies. [8]  And as investment has increased costs have tumbled.

We believe that the goal of a 70-100% decarbonisation by 2050 from 2008 is achievable at a reasonable cost. [9]  As seen in other sectors business as usual emissions growth predictions are rarely realised (e.g. energy sector) and should be treated with caution since the pace of change in technology is such that future projections quickly become out of date.

The shipping sector could apply this understanding of policy outcomes to identify how these tried and tested policies may be best adapted to the shipping sector’s own requirements.  For example, an ambitious target, paired with a price on carbon or fuel, could spur innovative zero and low-carbon technologies toward commercialisation. This could be enhanced by using the revenues associated with the policy within the sector through a fund that would support the deployment of low carbon technologies and ships onto the seas.

The shipping sector has shown it is capable of adapting to address environmental challenges and there is none bigger than climate change. With the positive news on stronger enforcements for reducing the sulphur content of shipping fuel, emanating from the IMO earlier this year, the shipping industry has the perfect opportunity this April to continue rebuilding its reputation as the greenest mode of transport. We look forward to an ambitious strategy with defined greenhouse gas emissions targets being agreed.


[1] OECD (2018). Decarbonising Maritime Transport: The Case of Sweden. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Mar. 2018].

[2] CO2 Targets, Trajectories and Trends for International Shipping, Smith, T.W.P., Traut, M., Bows-Larkin, A., Anderson, K., McGlade, C. and Wrobel, P. Shipping in Changing Climates Report.

[3] Lambert, F. (2018). A new fleet of all-electric ferries with massive battery packs is going into production. [online] Electrek. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018]

[4] Business Insider. (2017). China just launched the world’s first electric cargo ship. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2018].

[5] OECD (2018). Decarbonising Maritime Transport: The Case of Sweden. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Mar. 2018]

[6] Climate Home News, Brazil should support ambition in the climate deal of the year. [online] Climate Home News. Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2018].

[7] Ambrose, J. (2017). Carbon tax thrusts Britain towards the top of low carbon energy league table. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018].

[8] Ambrose, J. (2017). Carbon tax thrusts Britain towards the top of low carbon energy league table. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018].

[9] CO2 Targets, Trajectories and Trends for International Shipping, Smith, T.W.P., Traut, M., Bows-Larkin, A., Anderson, K., McGlade, C. and Wrobel, P. Shipping in Changing Climates Report.


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This ban on polluting vehicles proves the green revolution is coming – businesses must adapt, and fast

The government is clearly justified in making the announcement—the ban will clean up our air and help tackle global warming. But the real change is only just beginning.

You’ve got to hand it to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, he’s a quick learner with an instinctive grasp of how to control an agenda. The recent announcement that the UK will follow France in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 dominated the news. A spectrum of papers ran it on their front pages and TV crews were hastily despatched on a search for electric vehicle charging points to juxtapose with ubiquitous close up footage of car exhaust fumes. The announcement makes it clear that belching emissions from the rear end of a car is set to become the social equivalent of lighting up a cigarette in a restaurant—just not allowed.

The question of how governments drive social change on this scale is fascinating. I’m a longtime believer in competitive market-based policies to uncover least cost solutions. But sometimes there’s nothing like a simple ban to cut through the smog of scandal, celebrity gossip and disinformation masquerading as news, to land in company executive in-trays with a resounding thud. Precipitous drops in smoking were undoubtedly triggered by the ban on smoking in public places. Taxation, labelling policies and advances in alternatives that deliver the nicotine hit minus the harm all contributed, but the policy that reached every single smoker and tobacco firm overnight was the sudden change in where it was acceptable to light up.

There are obvious parallels with the public health challenge posed by the burning of fossil fuels in close proximity to humans. By announcing a complete ban on the internal combustion engine, even one 23 years hence, the government has effectively removed the social license of those car manufacturers and oil companies, who have for too long undermined efforts to rein in their impact on our lungs and the planet. General awareness of the problem of air pollution is rising thanks to publicly available data and the action of numerous campaign groups. Local governments of every hue will feel emboldened to act. More people will decide to try out an electric alternative and as ranges extend and prices fall they’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it feels to drive around with a clear conscience. I can’t be the only protective mother increasingly feeling justified in knocking on the windows of idling cars parked next to schools asking for engines to be switched off. I suspect it won’t be long before deciding to own a fossil fuel car purely on the basis of cost will be seen as unacceptably selfish and irresponsible.

The human health issue is just one factor supporting the proposed ban. Regular breaches in air quality standards are usually in densely populated, traffic-blighted areas. A long distance but attention grabbing ban does nothing immediately to address this and more targeted local action is needed now. And if it were just a question of human health, the ban would not need to apply in the majority of rural areas. The real reason supporting a comprehensive ban is climate change.

With virtually all of the world, bar the current incumbents of the White House, committed to trying to avert a global disaster, all large sources of greenhouse gas emissions can expect to have their social licenses to operate steadily removed. Sometimes this will be achieved through relatively unnoticed government policies charging for pollution and supporting cleaner alternatives until the point they can out compete their dirty rivals. Sometimes it will happen naturally through the march of technological progress. Other times more direct interventions will occur. Betting on this not happening will prove costly and industries and investors reliant on the status quo need to start enacting plans to adapt.

The last 23 years saw a revolution in computing and information technology, lighting the touch paper for further revolutions in almost every sector of the economy. This coupled with growing public support for action to protect us will mean well before 2040 our lives will once again be transformed, resulting in healthier, more human-centric cities and new sources of growth and employment.

The UK government was right to make this announcement—there will be inevitable attempts by vested interests to derail it but ministers need to stand firm and underscore the pledge in legislation, combining it with their existing plans to make the uptake of electric vehicles easier and more easily integrated with the Grid. If they do there will be strong cross party support—something we could do with an injection of right now.

First published at

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Bryony Worthington for Prospect magazine: Reasons for hope in the fight against climate change

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

Nasa recently announced the discovery of a solar system with seven earth-sized rocky planets, three of which could potentially sustain life. Interesting news, but at 235 trillion miles away, no one is going there soon. In the meantime, we need to look after our only home. We must protect ourselves from climate change. Our fate turns on a race between physics and politics.

The physics of climate change is off and running—we’re not sure how fast, and we don’t truly know the end point. But we do know that in the last century, dramatic increases in fossil fuel burning and changing land use began fundamentally changing the composition of the atmosphere. Warming has already raised sea levels, caused ocean acidification and coral reef bleaching. It contributes to depleted biodiversity, droughts, mass migration and extreme weather events including recently extreme high temperatures in the Arctic, heatwaves in Australia, drought in Bolivia, famine in north east Africa, flooding in the United States.

As for the politics, even before Donald Trump, our response had been too slow. The most instructive single metric is the parts per million (ppm) of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which not merely continues to increase, but to accelerate. Over the last 50 years the average increase was 1.7 ppm; in the last five 2.5 ppm. We need to up our game.

In 2015, it seemed possible to hope after the world came together to tackle climate change in Paris, helped by a newly positive US approach. Then last year, the prospect of a Trump presidency galvanised countries to ratify in record time. The Paris Agreement included a clear statement: in the second half of this century, all man-made emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced to zero or be captured and stored.

It falls to our generation to make this happen. The difficulty is we must do so through national politics, which find it hard to deal with threats that straddle borders and have an inbuilt time lag so that consequences only unfold in the distant future. The charge that other countries are free-riding is always a powerful excuse for inaction. And that has even more sting now that Trump has begun rolling back domestic environmental protections, and suggesting he may even withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.

But is Paris, and the multilateral spirit it embodies, really doomed? The UK’s Climate Change Act demonstrates the multilateral merit in setting a unilateral example. A recent report by the Grantham Institute lists over 800 climate change-related laws now in place in 99 countries. Most recently, Sweden published legislation setting a net zero target by 2045, citing the UK’s climate act as its model. Thankfully there are also signs that much of the rest of the world—most importantly China and India—will stick to their efforts to begin to decarbonise and the EU Commissioner during his visit to China this week emphasised the importance of continued EU-China collaboration and leadership.

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Why Now is the Time for the UK to Ratify the Paris Agreement

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

This week in the UK, a statutory instrument setting an emissions limt 57% below 1990 levels, for the period 2028-32, passed into law. The fact that the Government announced the carbon budget that enacts this limit on June 30th, one of the most extraordinary days of one of the most extraordinary weeks in British politics, is a testimony to the strength of the UK’s Climate Change Act, which provides a legal metronome for climate action in the UK, whatever the political circumstances, even when they are so all consuming. The Climate Change Act is a flexible, long term, technology neutral approach to climate mitigation that can bend so as not to break. The 5th carbon budget is, in essence, the UK’s own Paris target, covering the same time period as the European Nationally Determined Contribution.

Also this week, I wrote to congratulate the RT Hon Greg Clark MP, the new Secretary of State for the Department of Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and asking him to demonstrate the UK’s continued commitment to climate change, domestically and internationally, by initiating the legal ratification process the Paris Agreement in the UK.

For the Paris Agreement to come into global effect, 55 countries, representing 55% of global emissions need to legally ratify it or otherwise join. Our recent analysis shows the world is tantalisingly close to reaching these thresholds, with countries representing 54.4% of global emissions (against a target of 55%) currently expecting to ratify by the end of 2016 (as illustrated in this briefing: EDF Europe Paris Agreement Briefing).

The UK is responsible for 1.5% of global emissions, so the UK would tip the balance and leadership on the issue could make all the difference, bringing many tangible benefits, both here and globally including ensuring our efforts are matched in other countries and securing new markets for exports of climate change beating goods and services.

During the 5th Carbon Budget debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday, the new Lords Minister Baroness Neville Rolfe, reflected on the Climate Change Act saying: “Leaving the EU will bring challenges and opportunities to the UK. However, it does not change the fact that climate change remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our stability… The Act was passed with near-unanimous cross-party support, and this legal framework has inspired countries across the world, including Denmark, Finland and France. At its heart is a system of five-year cycles, mirrored in the historic Paris climate agreement, which the UK helped to achieve.”

I asked the Minister when the UK will ratify the Paris Agreement and she replied: “I can confirm that this Government remain committed to ratifying the Paris agreement, which was agreed last year by 195 countries, as soon as possible.” The process of ratification is not a lengthy or complex one. Once tabled, a simple statutory instrument becomes law after 21 sitting days. For a fuller explanation of why and how UK can play a leading role in the next stage of the historic Paris Agreement’s progress please read our short briefing (EDF Europe Paris Agreement Briefing). There is no reason to delay and, given we have now set our own targets into law, many good reasons to begin the process as soon as Parliament resumes in September.

You can also read full coverage of the Carbon Budget debate and a transcript of my speech online here.

(Baroness Bryony Worthington was part of the team that helped draft the 2008 Climate Change Act. You can read her biography here.)

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Paris Agreement signing should give Britain confidence to lead on low carbon strategy

April 22, 2016 — This article first appeared on Business Green.

The historic climate agreement reached in Paris last year was widely hailed as a major diplomatic breakthrough. For the first time, virtually all nations have agreed to take action together to try to reduce the global risk of climate change. As we approach the signing ceremony in New York this week the sense of momentum is clear and the USA, Canada and China have all recently contributed with announcements to collaborate closely on existing and new climate commitments.

In Britain, however, climate change policies have just run up against an industrial crisis centering on the potential closure of Tata’s UK steel division and the ongoing quest to find a buyer. Measures to address climate change have been directly blamed for the potential loss of tens of thousands of jobs and some have even tried to blame me personally for my role in the drafting of the Climate Change Act which was, in fact, specifically crafted to give policy makers the tools to guide a sensible transition over long timescales.

There are many reasons for Tata Steel’s decision to put its plants up for sale, some external, such as global over-capacity, some internal to the company but climate policy is not one of them. Like most industrial companies, Tata’s participation in the European Emissions Trading Scheme has delivered it a subsidy in recent years thanks to more emissions allowances being granted to them than were needed to match emissions. Rather than rip up our climate ambitions, just as others are now arriving on the same page, the answer to the UK steel crisis is to embrace the challenge of eliminating emissions of greenhouse gases from industry and to invest in future proofing industrial processes.

The UK is ahead of other countries when it comes to climate change; we have legally binding caps on our economy that stretch all the way out to 2050, reducing our emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels. Getting emissions down to this level will be no easy task and we do not yet know which technologies will get us there or their future costs, but this is no reason to slow the transition we have begun. On the contrary, because environmental policies are exempt from State Aid rules, we can use targeted climate policies to provide supportive investment frameworks, bringing new investment to our shores, in clean infrastructure that will create future proof jobs and export opportunities.

Rather than bemoaning policies that over the last 25 years have steadily brought on more renewable energy and improvements in efficiency, industry should be demanding supportive environmental policies of their own. Including those which can unlock investments to take advantage of the abundance of low carbon, low price electricity at times of high supply that National Grid is now predicting for this summer and in to the future. The majority of industries’ response to climate policies to date has been to seek exemptions and compensation. This has worked up to a point. The European emissions trading scheme for example has provided companies such as Tata with useful cushions against falling demand for their products, thanks to allocations of emissions allowances set according to historically high ‘grandfathered’ benchmarks. But as caps tighten this strategy cannot last forever. The attitudes of both industry and government need to change to develop specific targeted policies to support investment in the necessary transition to low and zero carbon industrial production.

Industries that have been able to switch their fuels to renewable sources easily, where additional green support policies exist, have already shown transition is possible, particularly in the paper sector. Unfortunately renewable forms of energy are not yet at the point where they can be used easily to decarbonize the production of metals since they are very energy intensive and also use coal for part of the production process. There are alternatives including electrification and carbon capture and storage, but to invest in these solutions will require significant sums and high degree of confidence in market demand. Tata themselves have been exploring options including their HISana project in Holland and Swedish steel maker SSAB is also at the forefront of exploring new investment options. Yet the challenge is to get the UK Government to provide industrial companies with policies that support industrial transformation with a widening of focus away from renewables only. UK leadership on climate change needs to be matched by leadership in industrial modernisation and innovation which will enhance our competitiveness.

The necessary policy tools already exist, carbon pricing provides the overarching framework and generates revenues that can be used to support transformative investments. While other countries move to implement carbon pricing policies alongside us, supplementary policies to bring technologies down the cost curve, should also be introduced. Contracts for difference, have been tested and proven in deploying large scale investment in renewable energy and they can be adapted for use in industrial sectors and should now be the main policy focus. Electrification of British steel capacity can be made to work if some of the risks of capital investment are reduced and new industrial electricity tariffs are introduced to provide time of use incentives to coincide with periods of high supply and reward storage technologies. We are currently exporting scrap steel for it to be recycled in furnaces elsewhere and then paying to import the finished product. Clearly this is a sign that a new approach to this hugely important primary industry can and must be adopted.

I look forward to the Paris Agreement coming in to force which should give the UK the confidence to continue with its own climate leadership and support a new era of investment in clean steel production and a broader industrial base. With the right policies, we can show that climate action can act as a spur for industrial innovation and investment, securing jobs for the remainder of this century. I look forward to working with industry in my new role, as Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund Europe, to help find the ways that work to achieve that objective.

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Baroness Worthington, on joining EDF

March 16, 2016 — Bryony Worthington recently joined EDF to lead our work in Europe, which focuses on marine fisheries and clean energy.

By many measures humanity has never had it so good. Development of the earth’s natural resources has delivered higher living standards for a larger number of people than ever before. We feed, clothe, shelter and maintain the health of more people more successfully than ever before. Elements of this progress, however, have come at an obvious cost to the natural systems that support all life. Left unchecked, our lack of attention to these systems could not only harm the environment but also reverse much of what we have achieved for humanity. Despite our progress, we are currently facing an evolutionary bottleneck and there is no turning back. We must find a way forward that sustains human prosperity and environmental progress.

The good news is, we’re making progress in working out what we need to do and how to do it. The nations of the world have recognized the need to act together to address the risk of climate change and many are already taking action to relieve pressure on the natural world. The age of digital information has connected individuals to each other and to up-to-the-minute data about our environment, and it has done so just in time: Seeing our environmental challenges more clearly builds our sense of urgency as well as our ability to do something about them.

I’ve spent my career advocating environmental solutions, and this week I start a new phase, as the head of Environmental Defense Fund in Europe. I’m delighted to be joining an organization that has a remarkable history of accomplishment across five decades. Combining rigorous in-house scientific, economic and legal analysis with the goal of ‘finding the ways that work,’ Environmental Defense Fund has helped win a great many battles to preserve the natural world: banning DDT in the United States, thereby saving the bald eagle and other great American birds of prey; removing lead from petrol; using cap and trade to cut acid rain pollution from power plants and save the lakes and forests of the northeastern U.S.; reducing overfishing by promoting rights-based fisheries management; putting in place wildlife-friendly land management policies and low-carbon energy investments; and, most recently, leading an ambitious series of peer-reviewed scientific studies and partnerships with energy and technology companies that have helped expose the problem of methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure.

Environmental Defense Fund has always been at the cutting edge of evidence-based advocacy, not afraid to try new approaches and take risks if the potential environmental benefit warranted it. For example, it was the first NGO to successfully partner with brands like McDonald’s, FedEx and Walmart, helping them bring about huge changes in their operations and supply chains. (And to remain independent, it does not accept funding from its corporate partners.) Its focus on science and data means it has avoided becoming bound by a rigid ideological belief system. And it has remained resolutely nonpartisan, ready to work with governments and stakeholders across the political spectrum. While Environmental Defense Fund works closely with many NGO partners, the combination of strengths it brings to the table is unique. I am proud to be helping to introduce the organization in Europe, because I believe it can complement the remarkable work already being undertaken here.

Historically, Europe has made great progress addressing environmental problems. But there is so much more to do. We in Europe are still learning from our experiences of what works and what doesn’t. We’re developing a knowledge-based economy and delivering innovation in technologies and services, but we remain dependent on a highly capitalized fossil-fuel infrastructure and the ‘traditional’ ways of doing things. I’m looking forward to using my experiences in the public, private, political and not-for-profit sectors to increase the pace of change here across a wide range of environmental issues. I’ve always been a campaigner and will always remain one. Joining Environmental Defense Fund is an exciting new opportunity to make an even greater difference. The green shoots of a new era of environmental responsibility are emerging – our job is to help them develop firm roots and flourish.

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