Environmental groups warn draft plan approved by International Maritime Organisation (IMO) could see shipping emissions rise over next decade
Calls for tougher measures to tackle greenhouse gases from global shipping have been rejected by governments after a week of deliberations held by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), instead opting for a climate plan campaigners claim lacks ambition and could even allow the sector’s emissions to rise over the coming decade.
International shipping accounts for around 2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and in 2018 IMO member states agreed the sector’s first ever climate targets – including an overatching ambition to cut its 2008 emissions in half by 2050 – and promising to draw up a detailed action plan before 2023 to achieve these goals.
But despite pressure for a tougher regulatory regime behind the targets, environmental group’s calls fell on deaf ears, as IMO member states today agreed a set of draft rules for meeting the industry’s near-term 2018 goal to reduce carbon intensity from global shipping by 40 per cent over the next decade from a 2008 baseline.
IMO said the draft mandatory measures combined a technical and operational approach to reducing ships carbon intensity over the coming decade, and hailed them as “a major step forward, building on current mandatory energy efficiency requirements to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping”.
Shipping industry groups have broadly welcomed the so-called ‘J/5’ draft climate proposal, which comes after a week of negotiations held online by the London-based UN agency and is now set to progress to the IMO’s next Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in mid-November, where it is expected to secure approval.
However, green groups – which had been calling on the IMO for rougher emissions rules at this week’s IMO meeting – have slammed the proposals as unambitious, warning they could in fact allow the shipping sector’s overall CO2 to increase.
A coalition of environmental groups including WWF, Transport & Environment, Seas at Risk and Pacific Environment argue the draft text further waters down an already-weak ‘compromise proposal’ that had been drafted ahead of the meeting, and have accused member states of breaching their Paris Agreement climate commitments and undermining the ability of the shipping sector to achieve its own climate ambitions.
“Governments have ridden roughshod over the Paris Agreement by agreeing a measure that will see ship emissions grow for decades to come,” said Faig Abbasov, shipping programme director at Transport & Environment. “The UN maritime agency again showed the world it can only deliver cosmetic changes. EU countries should work through the European Green Deal to fill the gap left by the IMO.”
The environmental groups are therefore calling on all countries to reconsider their support for the draft plan ahead of next month’s MEPC meeting – which is scheduled for 16 to 20 November – arguing it will “not cap, let alone reduce shipping emissions this decade”.
Under the proposed new rules, ships that do not meet the emissions regulations will now be given three years to carry out upgrades in order to comply, while previous clauses in the text setting out to consequences for non-compliance have been removed from the final document, according to the Coalition. Moreover, they claim an index proposed for measuring ships technical efficiency has been weakened, and the agreement also still lacks any carbon intensity target for ships’ operational emissions.
“The weaknesses of the ‘J/5’ text violate the initial IMO greenhouse gas strategy in three key ways,” Transport & Environment (T&E), Seas at Risk, Pacific Environment and WWF warned today in a joint statement. “It will fail to reduce emissions before 2023, will not peak emissions as soon as possible, and will not set ship CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement goals.”
But in contrast the shipping sector welcomed today’s IMO agreement, pointing to challenging conditions for the industry in the wake of Covid-19, and arguign that the introduction of a mandatory rating system for operational efficiency from 2023 will subject dirty ships to the power of the market.
“Ships’ charterers being far more likely to offer business and pay a premium for highly rated ships, while ships with a D or E rating will face serious negative consequences unless they improve their performance,” influential industry group the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) explained in statement this afternooon.
Guy Platten, secretary-general of the ICS – one of the sponsors of the original compromise proposal – claimed today’s deal would put the shipping industry “firmly on track” to meet the IMO’s carbon reduction targets. He added that ICS was committed to a “zero-carbon future” and that the sector planned to invest heavily in technologies to aid the transition to greener shipping.
“While today’s important agreement is about helping ensure that the existing fleet meets the 2030 target, ICS is also committed to 100 per cent decarbonisation as soon as possible after 2050,” he said. “This is why ICS, has submitted a detailed proposal to IMO for a $5bn fund, to be financed by the industry, to accelerate the research development of zero-carbon technologies, and why decarbonisation will continue to be a key focus of ICS regardless of the disruption caused by Covid-19.”
BusinessGreen understands the UK was among a handful of countries that challenged the draft proposal in the negotiations and called for IMO member states to boost their ambition.
The Department for Transport declined to comment on today’s draft agreement, however, due to the negotiations having not yet been completed.