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  • Shipping climate talks in the slow lane over speed reduction measures

    The lack of progress and low ambition shown at this week’s round of negotiations to reduce shipping’s contribution to the climate crisis is deeply concerning and disappointing, the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC)[1][2] has said. Two years after agreeing its initial greenhouse gas strategy, a meeting of the UN maritime agency, the IMO, did little more than review options already on the table and gave far too much time to technical measures that will deliver too little too late.

    There was however widespread acceptance by IMO member states and industry that ship speed is one of the most important factors affecting GHG emissions, and the CSC’s ship speed proposal is among those proposals for operational measures to be taken forward. [3][4][5]

    John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas at Risk, said: “The importance of speed reduction in cutting ship GHG emissions in the short-term is woven into the fabric of many of the proposed measures. The challenge as we go forward is to ensure that this most straight-forward of approaches is taken up and implemented in such a way that all ships contribute speed-related emissions savings.”

    Japan and Norway’s proposed measure to certify ships that limit their engine power – though the limit can easily be reversed – is unambitious, opaque, and susceptible to cheating. Crucially, it won’t achieve the urgent and deep cuts in emissions that are necessary if shipping is to respond appropriately to the climate emergency.

    Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager at Transport & Environment, said: “The IMO spent yet another week talking the talk without deciding anything except to kick the can further down the road. Everything is slow at the IMO, except for polluting ships, and this needs to change. With Norway and Japan’s proposal, the IMO is being blown off course and will achieve nothing more than ‘greenwashing’ of world shipping.”

    Dan Hubbell, shipping emissions campaign manager at Ocean Conservancy, said: “There is a real risk that when developing measures the IMO aims only to achieve the floor of targets set on an unambitious baseline. The IMO must follow the science and aim for full decarbonisation of the shipping sector by 2050 at the latest, and that makes some measures more appropriate than others.”

    Notes to editors:

    [1] The Clean Shipping Coalition is an international association of environmental NGOs with consultative status at IMO. Its membership includes Ocean Conservancy, Seas At Risk (SAR) and Transport & Environment (T&E), which were all present during the negotiations.

    [2] The 6th session of the International Maritime Organisation Marine Environmental Protection Committee Intersessional Working Group on GHG Emissions (ISWG-GHG6) met at the IMO headquarters in London from 11-15 November. The meeting considered proposals for short-term measures to tackle shipping’s climate impact, among them proposals to reduce ship speeds.

    [3] A new report on ship speed published by Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment before the meeting can be found here.

    [4] A Clean Shipping Coalition infographic on these issues can be found here.

    [5] An earlier report by Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment, which identified the potential cost savings from reduced ship speed, can be found here.