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It is 23 years since the Kyoto protocol asked the IMO to tackle climate-changing emissions from ships, yet progress has been painfully slow. Earlier this month, the IMO’s group on reducing greenhouse gas emissions discussed a very weak proposal aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping by 40% by 2030, compared to 2008. Yet this was watered down by the group, whose recommendations are expected to be adopted by IMO’s environment committee (Marine Environment Protection Committee) which meets for its 75th session 16-20 November.
If adopted, emissions from ships will not be capped this decade, let alone reduced; there will be no enforcement mechanisms; and there will be loopholes which will allow ships to escape penalties for non-compliance. Even under the best-case scenario, the proposal will see emissions rise nearly 14% on the industry’s 2008 baseline, according to the estimates of International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The proposed 40% reduction would itself fall a long way short of the Paris accord’s commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5/2°C by 2100.
‘The IMO has proved once again that it is completely ineffective in tackling shipping’s climate impact,’ said T&E’s shipping programme director, Faig Abbasov. ‘Governments have ridden roughshod over the Paris accord by agreeing a measure that will see ship emissions grow for decades to come. EU countries must now work through the European Green Deal to fill the gap left by the IMO.’
Because of poor progress made by the IMO between 1997 and 2015, the Paris climate accord mandated countries to address shipping at national and regional levels as part of their economy-wide climate plans. National governments have been reluctant to take action while IMO efforts were continuing, but the European Green Deal committed in 2019 to include international shipping in the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS). The Clean Shipping Coalition, which includes T&E, also says the latest poor outcome from the IMO indicates it is time for more localised action.
John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition which has observer status at the IMO, said: ‘In pursuing this outcome at the IMO, many countries have knowingly broken their Paris agreement commitment to pursue a 1.5/2C compatible emissions reduction. We urge all countries to reconsider their support for the decision ahead of MEPC75 and reject it, unless it can be fundamentally strengthened.’
The proposal likely to be adopted will fail to reduce emissions before 2023, will not cause emissions to peak emissions at the earliest opportunity, and will not set ship CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris agreement goals. In those three ways, it waters down the IMO’s initial greenhouse gas strategy.
Abbasov added: Alternative quote: ‘The IMO’s failure is a fact and indisputable. What remains to be seen is whether the EU member states will be brave enough to acknowledge that failure despite their best efforts, or will they try to sugarcoat it to save face? Either way it is their citizens who will suffer from the escalating impacts of the climate crisis.’