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WWF: IMO must close loopholes to stop world’s dirtiest fuel polluting Arctic waters

16 Oct 2020

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) on Thursday (15 October) said a proposed international shipping agreement arranged by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) should first close its “huge loopholes” on the ban of HFO in Arctic waters.

WWF’s observations echo an earlier statement made by the Clean Arctic Alliance.

New research from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) shows that under the current text, only 16% of HFO used by the shipping industry in the region will actually be banned by the regulation.

IMO member states are currently finalizing the text for an Arctic HFO ban that will be voted on in next month’s meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).  

“Arctic sea ice is melting at an unprecedented rate and that means more and more vessels will be travelling through the region,” said Andrew Dumbrille, sustainable shipping specialist, WWF-Canada.

“That increased traffic brings potential threats to marine life and ecosystems already under stress from a rapidly changing climate.

“Arctic States need to ensure the final agreement fulfils the original intent of the HFO ban and completely eliminate its use by 2024 to protect the food security and livelihoods of local and Indigenous communities from pollution and spills.” 

Given the severe risks a heavy fuel oil spill poses to polar environments, the IMO has already banned its use and carriage in the Antarctic.

“There is still time to get this right. If the text is left as is, this will be a ban in name only,” adds Mark Lutes, senior advisor for global climate policy for WWF Climate & Energy.

“HFO is one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, producing higher levels of air and climate pollutants than any other marine fuel.

“Effectively banning HFO in the Arctic is an important step in the IMO fulfilling its commitment to a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy. The shipping industry must do its part in achieving a net-zero future.”

WWF calls on all Arctic states to lead further negotiations at the IMO to strengthen the current text of the HFO ban on use and carriage for use. States should be calling for the removal of any so-called waivers and exemptions which would delay a full ban, due to come into effect in 2024. 

Related: Clean Arctic Alliance: Implications of the IMO’s Draft Heavy Fuel Oil Ban in the Arctic
Related: Clean Arctic Alliance calls out proposed Arctic shipping regulation to be full of loopholes


Photo credit: NOAA

Published: 16 October, 2020

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