Washington International Law Journal


Caitlin Morray


Marine transport is an efficient and cost-effective way to transport goods around the world; at least ninety percent of all global trade is served by the shipping industry and shipping trade is expected to triple in the next two decades. However, because of the poor quality of the fuel used by the shipping industry, ocean-going ships disproportionately impact the environment and human health. The shipping industry is presently estimated to generate almost thirty percent of the world’s smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly ten percent of sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain and deadly fine particles. The Pearl River Delta on the Southern coast of China is home to some of the busiest sea ports in the world, including the ports of Hong Kong and East and West Shenzhen, and is therefore particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of ship emissions. The air pollution caused by ship emissions poses a serious and growing threat to the Pearl River Delta and its inhabitants, but the Chinese government has implemented very few initiatives to reduce its effects. The Chinese government must take a two-pronged approach to address the threat of ship emissions. First and most importantly, Chinese lawmakers should draft and implement national legislation that imposes emissions restrictions on ships while in and around the ports of the Pearl River Delta. Second, China should appeal to the International Maritime Organization to have the Pearl River Delta declared a Micro-Emissions Control Area, thereby significantly restricting the sulfur content of fuel permitted within the region.

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