Shipping negotiations may sink global climate ambition

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A meeting in London next week will be the last chance for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to set out how it plans to meet its responsibilities under the Kyoto Protocol to control and reduce emissions from international shipping, before the crucial UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

Next week’s meeting [2] is IMO's last chance to take action before the Kyoto provisions are revised at Copenhagen in December. If action is not forthcoming, NGOs will press for Copenhagen to set emission reduction targets for international shipping: 40% below 1990 levels by 2020; and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and for discussions to be transferred to the UNFCCC, the body that deals with climate change.

"The need to address shipping emissions is too urgent to be left in the hands of the IMO, who have consistently stalled when they need to take real action," said. Bill Hemmings of Transport and Environment "We cannot risk another decade of delay. If they cannot make real commitments to cut emissions, and back this up with action, then it is time for the UNFCCC to step in."

IMO has been discussing possible measures to reduce emissions including emission trading or a levy; an emissions standard for new and existing ships; as well as operational measures to reduce emissions. However, developed and developing countries are split over who should participate. Developed countries insist that shipping is a global industry and any scheme must cover everyone, while poorer countries point to the principle of 'Common But Differentiated Responsibilities' applied in climate negotiations and insist that only developed countries should be covered.

"One way out of the current deadlock is for every country to participate in a global shipping scheme, but for the revenues generated by a levy on fuel, or by auctioning emissions permits to go exclusively towards helping developing countries to fight climate change. That way, poorer nations will ultimately receive more than they pay in," Peter Lockley, Head of Transport Policy at WWF-UK "But for such an offer to be credible, rich countries must show that they are willing to transfer this money and not keep it to plug budget deficits at home. Developed countries have long argued that the emissions belong to no individual country - they can't now lay claim to the proceeds of any levy on those emissions. The least IMO can do at this session is pass a resolution guaranteeing the revenues will go to developing countries."

[1] Global GHGs should not exceed 7.2 MtCO2 in 2050 in order to achieve a ‘high likelihood’ of keeping warming below 2 degrees C. See ]NGO treaty] p. 5 and 16-18. The Second IMO GHG Study 2009, available at [REF], estimates business-as-usual emissions from global shipping as between 2.7 and 3.6 GtCO2, or 38-50% of the allowable budget.

[2] MEPC 59 is the 59th session of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee, a sub-committee of IMO charged with environmental matters. It meets in London from 13-17 July 2009.