Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2016
Bunker fuels are a type of heavy fuel oil
("HFO") used in the aviation and
maritime industries to fuel ships and aircraft. The use of HFOs has
raised concerns over their environmental impacts and, in
particular, their contribution to anthropogenic (human-induced)
climate change caused by the greenhouse gases emitted by the
burning of HFOs to power shipping. While the ongoing international
negotiations being undertaken under the aegis of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change
("UNFCCC") and the Kyoto Protocol are
yet to agree upon a future climate change legal regime, when it
comes to HFO emissions the negotiations have been in a complete
deadlock for a number of years. Along with aviation emissions, and
due to their importance to international trade and associated
sensitivity to their being regulated, HFO emissions generally have
been left out of the international climate change negotiations.
However, while this situation persists for HFOs, specific action is
now being taken on aviation emissions, e.g. their introduction into
the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.
The situation in respect of HFOs is also likely to change due to
continued pressure to deal with HFO emissions in the climate
negotiations. The International Maritime Organization
("IMO") has developed (through its
Marine Environment Protection Committee), various international
standards geared toward environmental protection.
Viewed against the backdrop of the stalemate in the climate
change negotiations vis-ŕ-vis HFOs, the IMO has
successfully established a new regulatory regime for those ship
emissions that can adversely affect human health. These emissions
are nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides and particulate matter*. The
rules, which were established as part of Annex VI to the
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
("MARPOL") and which do not directly
address the greenhouse effect of such gases, relate to regulations
covering liability and compensation for damage, such as pollution
caused by ships. South Africa has not yet ratified Annex VI of
MARPOL. There is some likelihood that a similar approach to
the one adopted for aviation emissions, that is subjecting them to
emissions trading, will be adopted for HFOs from shipping. However,
this issue is still the subject of intense speculation and
* Particulate matter is not a greenhouse gas.
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