Meeting in London this week, the IMO was hopelessly split in a divisive debate with most of the so-called BRICS countries opposing the call from Pacific island nations, developed countries and much of the industry to develop a post-Paris work plan on what emissions cuts would be needed.
The IMO’s new secretary-general was forced to intervene, appealing to governments not to kill the post-Paris discussion, while France warned that a failure to advance the plan would mean the UN shipping body would be “held up to ridicule on the very day the Paris agreement was being signed in New York.” In an extraordinary move that repudiated the call for action from its island neighbours, the Cook Islands aligned with China against developing a plan. The meeting broke up with no agreement and the entire issue was put off until the next meeting of the IMO’s environment committee in October.
Bill Hemmings, shipping director at sustainable transport group Transport & Environment, 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.”
John Maggs, senior policy advisor at environmental NGO Seas At Risk, said: “The IMO has fallen flat on its face in the first test of its determination to tackle greenhouse gas emissions after Paris, unable even to agree to develop a work plan for reducing ship emissions. Despite a large majority of member states and industry supporting action, the IMO proved unable to translate this into progress, instead allowing itself to be held hostage by a handful of BRICS and the maverick and increasingly isolated Cook Islands.”