Mixed views following IMO emissions talks

IMO Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions The meeting made progress on a list of possible CO2 reduction measures that might be taken forward by IMO in the short, medium and longer term. Image courtesy of the IMO

Talks by the IMO Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships have been “broadly satisfying”.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO said they're encouraged that proposals from the shipping industry regarding CO2 reduction objectives are still on the table, along with similar proposals from several IMO Member States.

"The working group made some considerable progress in bringing together the proposals for the different elements of the draft IMO GHG strategy," said Kitack Lim, IMO secretary-general.

Reduction measures

The meeting made progress on a list of possible CO2 reduction measures that might be taken forward by IMO in the short, medium and longer term, with a recognition that the vision of reaching zero CO2 emissions will only be achieved by supporting the development of alternative fuels and propulsion technologies, and ensuring their global availability.

The industry associations expect IMO Member States to finalise a comprehensive CO2 reduction strategy for international shipping at the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in April 2018 that will match the ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  They will continue working with all IMO Member States and environmental NGOs to help achieve this shared objective.

The industry organisations want the IMO strategy to focus on maintaining international shipping's annual total CO2 emissions below 2008 levels reducing CO2 emissions as an average across international shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008. They also want to 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.

Heavy push-back

Environmental lobbyists painted a different picture however, arguing that calls for urgent action had met with 'heavy push back' from flag states and industry groups.

Green groups Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment, which are members of the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC), said the most obvious immediate measure is to regulate ship speed, with the feasibility and effectiveness of slow steaming having been proven during the recession.

John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk and president of the CSC, said: "The IMO meeting heard that ship greenhouse gas emissions are rising again and need to peak soon, but key flag states and developing countries blocked an agreement to prioritise and develop measures for immediate short-term emission reductions.”

Bill Hemmings, shipping director at Transport & Environment, said: “Operational speed reduction is the only measure on the table that can deliver the substantial and immediate short-term emissions reductions that the Paris agreement demands. It's very feasibility may well be the overriding motivation for the heavy pushback."

He said this solution can be implemented globally, regionally or between ports.

"If, after 20 years of work, the IMO’s three-step approach to the climate crisis  – report, analyse, decide – really only amounts to talk, talk, talk, then we should draw the obvious conclusion," he warned.

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