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The climate is prioritized

11 December 2019

Shipping is usually a mode of transport with little environmental impact. But not always. Therefore, the general view that a transfer of freight transports to shipping is good for the enivironment, must go. This is stated by Eva-Lotta Sundblad, one of the authors of a new report from the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment.

Since 2018, Sweden has a national freight transport strategy – a strategy that promotes the transfer of freight transport from road to rail and shipping. Behind is a general assessment that maritime transport emits less carbon dioxide than road transport. But what a transfer would mean for the marine environment if the number of vessels and traffic on water increased is not mentioned.

”It is not included in the strategy. Instead the climate issue is highlighted. The impact on water has not been noticed, although the effects on the marine environment can be significant”, Eva-Lotta Sundblad at the Institute for the Marine Environment says.

As the researchers note in the report, there is a conflict of objectives between transport policy goals and several environmental goals. Furthermore, they write, the state of the marine environment around Sweden's coasts today is not well and shipping is one of many activities that contribute to it. The total burden on the marine environment therefore needs to be reduced - not least in the Baltic Sea.

”After all, it has been designated as a sensitive area and Sweden does not achieve either national or international environmental goals. Action must be taken. Decision makers, freight buyers, shipping and marine environmental management must look at a broader picture than they do today.”

A major problem is that transport- climate- and marine environment policies are handled by different authorities, different organizational parts, different research portfolios etc.

“The general picture that shipping is always the best type of transport needs to be nuanced. For example, some ships make very low emissions of carbon dioxide per tonne kilometer while others have high emissions. The same goes for trucks. Then, other aspects such as distance, speed and degree of filling must be taken into account. One of our most important messages is that shipping sometimes is a climate-friendly mode of transport, but not always.”

In recent years, much focus has been placed on climate and carbon dioxide equivalents - has it become too much?

"Climate is extremely important and of course we have to work with it, but we have to do it with other environmental issues in mind. In the long term, if we forget the marine environment issues, we have neither a functioning ecosystem nor a social system."

Read the report here (in Swedish)

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