Cruise industry's climate announcement is more hot air in a warming world

Cruise industry's climate announcement is more hot air in a warming world

Wednesday December 19, 2018 calls for science-based commitments in line with international climate agreements

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Today, cruise industry giant Carnival Corporation CEO and Global Chair of the industry trade association Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Arnold Donald announced a commitment meant to sound like the cruise sector is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. While this sounds like a huge step in the right direction, it will likely prove virtually meaningless, as the reductions are intensity reductions, not absolute reductions, said international environmental organization

For example, between 2013 and 2015, the cruise sector reported an intensity reduction of 6%, while the absolute emissions from the sector — the amount of greenhouse gases actually emitted — increased by 6%.

“The intensity greenhouse gas reductions announced today by the cruise industry are meaningless in the real world of climate disruption and biodiversity loss. We do not need more pencil sharpening and hot air. We need concrete action to reduce the actual amount of climate-damaging pollution the cruise industry is pumping into the atmosphere,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner for

According to CLIA, carbon emissions will be calculated based on total carbon emissions, the number of people the ship can host — called available lower berth or ALB — and distance traveled. That means the more the sector expands its fleets, and the farther these ships travel, the more climate-damaging pollution it can release while still reporting decreasing emissions.

“Decreasing the amount of climate pollution per person capacity, but increasing emissions overall, doesn’t address the cruise industry's growing climate footprint. This is why international climate agreements are based on absolute reduction targets, not intensity reductions like Carnival and CLIA’s current goals,” said Ulrich. “We appreciate that the cruise industry is thinking about these urgent issues. Now, we need to see real-world action and climate targets based on science.”

The reduction strategy also appears to be centered on increased investment in LNG-powered cruise ships. However, routine accidental releases of methane — called “slippage” — make the actual climate pollution reductions from switching to LNG minimal at best – and potentially worse than a business as usual scenario. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon.

“Heavily polluting industries are making real climate commitments. Levi’s recent commitment, made in response to’s campaign, agreed to a 40% absolute greenhouse gas reduction by 2025. Cargo shipping giant Maersk also recently announced it is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. These commitments include absolute reductions and show real leadership, which Carnival and CLIA still need to aspire to,” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director,  

In April 2018, the UN International Maritime Organization adopted the first greenhouse gas reduction strategy for the shipping sector with a target of at least 50% absolute carbon reductions from 2008 levels by 2050. is a member of the international Clean Up Carnival coalition calling on Carnival Corporation to address its growing environmental impacts.