Shipping should adopt emissions cut pledge, shipowners tell IMO

Shipowners and operators have told the UN’s International Maritime Organisation that the shipping industry should adopt an emissions reduction pledge like countries have done under the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first time the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has called for mandated reductions in shipping CO2, though it ruled out binding targets and didn’t suggest a concrete timeline of action.

The IMO should adopt an emissions reduction pledge on behalf of the international shipping sector and report back on progress at future meetings, the ICS said in a submission last week. Shipping industry bodies and the IMO had successfully lobbied to have the sector’s emissions excluded from the terms of the Paris Agreement, with the IMO’s then secretary-general warning that an emissions reduction target for shipping emissions would effectively mean a cap on global trade.

Fears that the EU could implement unilateral measures to cut shipping emissions have evidently now prompted the shipowners to say that the IMO should adopt an ‘intended nationally determined contribution’ (INDC), the same type of pledge countries have adopted under the Paris deal. However, T&E warned the IMO has long failed to take meaningful action on the sector’s climate impact, prompting regional action by the EU to monitor emissions from 2018.

Bill Hemmings, T&E’s shipping director, said: ‘We welcome the fact that so soon after Paris the ICS position has shifted from shipping not being part of the problem to shipping joining the solution and recognising that all sectors must decarbonise. But the IMO has faltered before, necessitating recourse to regional measures and already attempts are being made to block reform of the IMO’s ship efficiency measure, the EEDI. So early follow-through by the ICS will be important.’

The ICS warned that any emissions reduction commitment should be ‘realistic’ and ‘avoid the implication that some kind of sanction might follow any reduction target not being reached’. Also, shipping should not be expected to cut emissions at the same rate as developed nations, it added.

The IMO will discuss the ICS submission at a meeting of its environment protection committee in April.