Landmark Agreement: Shipping Industry to Cut Emissions


Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), said the adoption of the initial strategy "would allow future IMO work on climate change to be rooted in a solid basis".

Shipping was originally left out of major nation-based climate accords, with some countries such as the United States and Saudi Arabia not wanting to cut shipping emissions at all.

Under the identified 'levels of ambition, ' the initial strategy envisages for the first time a reduction in total GHG emissions from worldwide shipping which, IMO said, should peak as soon as possible, and to reduce the total annual GHG emissions at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008.

ICS says it hopes the IMO agreement will be sufficient to discourage those who mistakenly advocate regional measures which, as well being very damaging to global trade, would not be effective in helping the worldwide shipping sector to further reduce its total Carbon dioxide emissions, which are now about 8% lower than in 2008 despite a 30% increase in maritime trade.

But opposition from some countries - including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Panama - limited what could be achieved at the IMO session last week in London.

The strategy includes a specific reference to a 'pathway of Carbon dioxide emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals'.

The commissioners said: "While the European Union had sought a higher level of ambition, this [strategy] is a good starting point that will allow for further review and improvements over time..."

Expectations are that over the next few years this target will be tightened and brought closer in line with the Paris Agreement commitments.

Worldwide shipping now emits as much as the sixth-largest global emitter.

A final IMO plan is not expected until 2023.

"Even with the lowest level of ambition, the shipping industry will require rapid technological changes to produce zero-emission ships, moving from fossil fuels, to a combination of electricity (batteries), renewable fuels derived from hydrogen, and potentially bioenergy", he said.

Experts say that the compromise is not in keeping with the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celcius.

ICS says that the efficiency goal that has been agreed by IMO Member States for the sector as a whole - a 40% improvement by 2030, compared to 2008, and a 70% improvement by 2050 - is also extremely ambitious but probably achievable. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.