UK legal obligations on international shipping

September 28, 2022

How the UK is in breach of its international obligations to reduce the climate impact of international shipping by waiting for the International Maritime Organization to act.

Emissions from the UK’s international shipping activities make up more than half of the UK’s total maritime emissions. However, the UK is proposing only to regulate emissions from the domestic fleet, stating in the recent Course to Zero consultation that responsibility for regulating international emissions lies with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
This is not the case. The UK is under a legal obligation to keep emissions to the temperature limits agreed in the Paris Agreement, and as the UK Climate Change Committee pointed out, this cannot be done without tackling international shipping. Waiting for the IMO to act therefore inevitably violates the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement.
This report by the NGO Opportunity Green draws on analysis of international law to detail the UK’s obligation to act on greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the international maritime sector, outside the IMO framework.

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