The world we live in today is almost completely globalized. You can purchase products from around the world and have them shipped wherever you want. Individuals and businesses have certainly taken advantage of this. In fact, more than $6.4 trillion worth of cargo was transported by the global aviation industry in 2012 alone.

Why does this matter? Because the international shipping industry produces enormous levels of greenhouse gasses. Maritime emissions especially contribute to this dilemma because of ships’ high reliance on heavy fuel oil. Cargo ships move at least four-fiths of the world’s cargo, so it’s safe to say that they are using a lot of fuel to make that happen.

Shipping used to be excluded from other climate agreements, but not anymore. The global shipping industry has made a deal with the International Maritime Organization. Under this deal, greenhouse gas emission will be reduced by 50% by 2050 compared to the levels in 2008.

In 2013 alone, more than 15 billion tons of cargo were transported by the shipping industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2040, that number is expected to grow to 18.79 billion tons. If this deal was not made and the shipping-related emissions were left unchecked, the levels could soar up to 250% by 2050 as the global trading market keeps expanding.

The deal involves 173 countries to follow these new emission-reduction regulations. Counties like the United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and a few others did not want to see a target for cutting down shipping emissions at all. On the other hand, regions like the European Union, including Britain and other small island states, fought for a cut that was closer to 70% to 100% of the 2008 levels. So, they settled on 50% as a compromise.

Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, who had chaired the controversial talks, said: “This initial strategy is not a final statement but a key starting point.”

A small Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands spoke up about the cuts. Even though the island has the world’s second largest register of shipping, it warned that failure to achieve the drastic cuts would threaten the country’s survival as global warming has been raising sea levels.

David Paul, the nation’s environment minister, said in the conference, “To get to this point has been hard, very hard. And it has involved compromises by all countries. Not least by vulnerable island nations like my own who wanted something, far, far more ambitious than this one.”

He also added, “This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back.”

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