Shipping’s response to Paris climate deal left in disarray

Governments last month failed even to agree on developing a work plan to determine shipping’s ‘fair share’ contribution to meeting the goals of the Paris deal. Despite there being a clear majority in support of the move, a minority led by China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and the Cook Islands blocked a consensus to move forward. The issue was put back on the agenda of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) environment committee for when it next meets in October.

Pacific island nations, developed countries and much of the shipping industry had supported a proposal to develop a post-Paris work plan on what emissions cuts would be needed. This call was accompanied by a proposal from industry for shipping to make a Paris-style contribution pledge on CO2 emissions reduction. The so-called BRICS countries opposed the move claiming that the IMO’s decision, also taken at the meeting, to agree mandatory reporting requirements for ship fuel burn and CO2 emissions was more than enough progress.

During the debate the new IMO secretary-general Ki Tack Lim felt it necessary to appeal to governments to continue the climate discussions, while France warned that failure to agree would expose the UN shipping body ‘to ridicule on the very day the Paris agreement was being signed in New York’. The European Parliament had also sent a delegation to the IMO meeting and MEP Jytte Guteland later pointed out that both international and EU measures are necessary to abate shipping emissions.

Bill Hemmings, T&E shipping director, said: ‘How extraordinary it is that the IMO can’t agree that the Paris climate deal will require the shipping industry to even assess what it needs to do in response. Key developing countries seem to be in denial.’

The meeting did agree to the mandatory reporting of ship fuel burn and CO2 emissions – a result that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago. China, the Cook Islands and others argued that the IMO should wait and collect this data, then analyse it and only at that ‘step three’ commence a discussion as to what further measures to take. T&E said the measure lacked transparency and was inadequate because the measure of cargo carried – how much weight a ship can carry – was based on deadweight tonnage as a proxy rather than real operational efficiency data such as cargo carried and distance travelled.

Sotiris Raptis, T&E shipping policy officer, said: ‘Transparency provided for in the regional EU system of design efficiency scores, or efficiency metrics, is missing at IMO. There should also be a requirement to collect real data, not proxies for cargo carried. Τhe reported CO2 data must be transparent so that the market can differentiate between efficient and less efficient ships. Only transparency of data will break down the industry barriers to greater efficiency.’

The EU’s monitoring, reporting and verification regulation came into force in July 2015. It will lead to the creation of a searchable database of ships, and their emissions and energy performance, allowing ship users to take into account fuel consumption before making chartering decisions. IMO data on the other hand, will be aggregated, anonymised and  accessible only by the IMO secretariat, not by flag states, the public or stakeholders.

The IMO’s much-needed review of its design efficiency standard for new ships, the EEDI, will continue after the failure of efforts to shut it down without a strengthening of the efficiency requirements. The review will be discussed again in October.