The next UN Cop 27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, is unlikely to speed up the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) decisions on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the shipping industry, just as Cop 26 pressure failed to do so last year.
The IMO’s present strategy targets a 50pc reduction in overall GHG emissions by 2050 compared with 2008 levels, and a 70pc reduction in CO2 emissions over the same timeframe. Member countries are currently working towards revising the strategy by the middle of 2023. The Marshall Islands, which with Liberia and Panama have the three largest ship registries globally, does not expect Cop 27 discussions to directly affect the work of the 79th Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in December. Liberia’s Maritime Authority marine environmental protection director Daniel Tarr says he hopes that the discussions at Cop 27 will push the IMO to act, although he also cautions that the most progress he sees happening at December’s IMO meeting is a non-binding agreement on a set of more ambitious targets.
Around 10,000 vessels are registered in Liberia and the Marshall Islands, with the latter a major tanker fleet registry. Flag states have responsibility for implementation and enforcement of maritime laws, which means they have to ensure ships under their registries are compliant with the IMO strategy. In the first days of Cop 26 last year, the Marshall Islands led the declaration on zero emission shipping by 2050, with the US and Denmark, and the support of Danish container ship firm Maersk. Other initiatives born during Cop 26 added to pressure on the IMO to revise its emission strategy before 2023. These include the Clydebank declaration for green shipping corridors, which sought to establish at least six zero-emission maritime routes between two or more ports by 2025, and the First Movers Coalition.
If at first you don’t succeed
Although Cop 26 brought about ambitious goals for the shipping sector and despite the pressure to do more, IMO member countries have so far failed to agree to speed up the revision process, let alone the setting of new emissions targets. The Marshall Islands, with Kiribati and Solomon Islands submitted a resolution for the 77th IMO environmental committee meeting, which followed Cop 26, to commit to zero GHG emissions in shipping by 2050, but it failed to gain support. And in June, IMO’s 78th committee meeting faltered in its attempts to update its emission targets and decide on mid to long-term measures to reduce emissions. Divisions emerged between states over the impact of more ambitious targets, with some states refusing outright to countenance a total phase-out of emissions by 2050. Decisions at the IMO need to be taken unanimously.
But the UN climate conference and some of its initiatives are continuing to influence the IMO debate. A World Shipping Council paper presents three suggestions to IMO members ahead of the December meeting. One of these suggestions is to build on existing initiatives and develop an IMO “green corridors programme”, which would draw on Cop 26’s Clydebank declaration. Partnerships between Rotterdam and Singapore, as well as Los Angeles and Shanghai, Canadian Great Lake ports, and European Baltic ports have been announced following the 2021 declaration, although none of these has committed to the 2025 target. The World Shipping Council also proposed reducing the number of steps in the GHG fuel standard goals — a mid-term measure proposed by a group of European countries in March that seeks to establish a measure of GHG intensity in marine fuels — and using a well-to-wake lifecycle assessment for benchmarking emissions.
By James Marriott
Photo credit and source: Argus Media
Published: 16 September 2022
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