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ICS urges countries to compromise over CO2 reduction strategy

27 Mar 2018

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) recommends governments to compromise their mutual expectations on a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide from shipping, ahead of a critical International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting on 3 April, “or risk having no IMO CO2 strategy at all.”

“Governments on all sides of the debate are going to need to show far more willingness to compromise on their current positions or put at risk an agreement on a meaningful strategy,” says ICS Chairman, Esben Poulsson.  

“This would greatly undermine the authority of IMO and the future sustainability of the shipping industry.

“Agreement upon a mid-century objective for the total reduction of CO2 emissions by the sector, regardless of trade growth, will be vital to discourage unilateral action and to provide the signal needed to stimulate the development of zero CO2 fuels.”

“But the very high level of ambition proposed by certain EU Member States – a 70 to 100% total cut in emissions before 2050 – is unlikely to achieve consensus support.” 

Poulsson remarked: “While ICS does not fully agree with them in every respect, alternative proposals made by China and Japan merit serious consideration and could form the basis of a possible compromise.  

“China in particular seems to have made a real effort to move away from its previous opposition to establishing CO2 reduction goals for the sector’s total emissions.  If EU nations want a global agreement they should acknowledge this by similarly modifying their own positions.”   

Meanwhile, ICS suggests that if IMO was to set an initial objective of cutting the sector’s total CO2 emissions by, for example, 50%, rather than 70 to 100%, this would still require a major improvement in ship efficiency over ‘business as usual’. 

When account is taken of the anticipated growth in maritime trade, ICS says this will still only be possible with the widespread use of zero CO2 fuels.

“A mid-century objective similar to that proposed by Japan – which might also enjoy support from nations like China if EU nations were willing to compromise – would still provide a compelling signal to the industry,” says Poulsson.

“This should also be sufficient to stimulate the development of zero CO2 fuels leading to a 100% CO2 reduction in line with the ambitious vision which IMO must agree.”

ICS and other industry associations have previously proposed the need for an ambitious vision in the IMO strategy, making it clear that the ultimate goal is the elimination of all CO2 emissions from international shipping (i.e. 100% reduction) sometime between 2050 and 2100, or as soon as the worldwide availability of zero CO2 fuels makes this possible.

In advance of zero CO2 fuels becoming available globally, the industry has also proposed that IMO should adopt the following objectives: 

  • Objective 1 – to maintain international shipping’s annual total CO2 emissions below 2008 levels;
  • Objective 2 – to reduce CO2 emissions per tonne-km, as an average across international shipping, by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008; and
  • Objective 3 – reduce international shipping's total annual CO2 emissions by an agreed percentage by 2050, compared to 2008, as a point on a continuing trajectory of CO2 emissions reduction.

Photo credit: International Maritime Organization
Published: 27 March, 2018


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