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Cargo ships unload their shipping containers at the Port of Miami in Florida. - 

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Steve Chiotakis: Delegates from hundreds of countries are meeting in London this week to hammer out an agreement aimed at reducing the shipping industry's swelling carbon footprint. But any deal would have to wade through some rough waters. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, here's Sam Eaton.


Sam Eaton: Every year, global shipping produces more greenhouse gas emissions than Germany. But the CO2 from all those oil tankers, cargo ships and cruise liners has gone unregulated. That could change as members of the U.N.-sponsored International Maritime Organization, or IMO, consider market-based initiatives for reducing emissions.

Jacqueline Savitz is with the environmental group Oceana. She says if delegates fail to reach agreement, the issue is likely to be taken up at December's U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen.

Jacqueline Savitz: It's really the IMO's last chance to say yes, OK, we get it, we have this under control, before people start really questioning whether the IMO is capable of addressing these problems.

One U.S. proposal would require all ships to improve energy efficiency. A tax on dirty bunker fuels and an emissions trading scheme are also being considered.

The IMO predicts shipping emissions could grow by as much as 250 percent by mid-century under current practice. But with developing nations opposing mandatory reductions, agreement at this week's meeting may be hard to come by.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam