EU Approved Legislation Regarding Low Sulphur Fuel

Stricter limits on the sulphur content of shipping fuels are set to improve air quality along European coastlines and reduce the estimated 50,000 premature deaths caused each year by air pollution from ships. EU parliament today approved legislation agreed with member states, which requires new general limits to be in place by 2020.

“Highly polluting shipping fuels have a serious impact on the environment but this is also the most important health reform of this parliamentary mandate. With air pollution from shipping expected to outstrip land-based emissions by 2020, urgent remedial action is needed”, said rapporteur Satu Hassi (Greens/EFA, FI), after her report was approved by 606 votes to 55, with 3 abstentions.

The new rules will bring European legislation in line with limits agreed by the International Maritime Organisation. The general sulphur limit for fuels in European seas will fall from 3.5% to 0.5% by 2020, after MEPs insisted on deleting provisions that would have allowed the deadline to be postponed by five years.

Fuel used in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel – Europe’s ‘sulphur emission control areas’ (SECAs) – will need to meet the new international standard of 0.1% by 2015 (from 1% currently).

The limits can be met by using cleaner fuels or technology, such as scrubbers, that can deliver an equivalent result.

As part of its review of air quality legislation, the legislation asks the Commission to consider extending the stricter SECA limits to all EU territorial waters, i.e. within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

Green NGOs are now stressing the need for the European Commission and Member States to address other types of pollutants from ships, such as CO2. Nitrogen oxides emissions from ships are also of great concern, say the NGOs, but there are still no EU standards or measures in place for controlling their release. They call upon the Commission to propose measures to address nitrogen oxides from both new and existing ships as soon as possible.

The European Commission has launched a wide review of its air policies. The review is expected to end next year with the adoption of legislative proposals aimed at reducing the adverse impacts of air pollution in Europe.

Source: European Parliament, European Environmental Bureau

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