By Alexander Whiteman

MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) have told the International Maritime Organization there can be no exceptions or exemptions in the fight against climate change and are demanding immediate action to cut shipping emissions. In an open letter to EU member states and the IMO, MEPS from Croatia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden say that despite shipping creating emissions equal to all of those created in the Netherlands, it remains the only sector not included in the European commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Sweden’s Jytte Guteland said every sector needed to bear responsibility for tackling the problem and the European Parliament would take action if the IMO failed to do so.

“Having teeth means short-term and mid-term measures to make sure it’s actually happening,” said Ms. Guteland. “Both the council and the parliament have said if we don’t see real steps forward on a global scale by 2023, the EU needs to take action. But we don’t want to go down that road, we want the IMO to deliver. “It’s about life and death; it’s about the world; it’s about countries going underwater. The IMO should live up to its responsibilities as a global UN body that takes its responsibilities seriously.”

Among the demands are: both the EC and EU countries push the IMO to back a 70-100 per cent emission reduction over 2008 levels by 2050; commit to immediate reduction measures by 2023; and firmly support a plan to discuss immediate measures for adoption by 2021. The letter says action on shipping emissions is as much a part of the commitment to the Paris Agreement as that on any other sector.

“Ever since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 called on developed nations to work through the IMO to address the sector’s impact on global climate change, the European Union has been pressing for credible action at the global level,” the letter continues. “Several EU deadlines for the IMO to act have come and gone. And the IMO itself now acknowledges that the time for a definitive commitment has come. We therefore urge European countries and the commission to redouble efforts to help ensure a positive outcome.” It continues: “The clock is ticking, we do not have the luxury for any further delays. The survival of millions of climate-vulnerable people depends on all sectors of the economy doing their part in reducing humanity’s climate footprint. It is essential that shipping decarbonize and be subject to climate regulation; preferably by the IMO but otherwise through other means.”

At MEPC 72 meeting, held in London in early April, progress appeared to be evident as Chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping Guy Platten hailed IMO’s decision to cut 2008 levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by at least 50 per cent by 2050, with IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim commenting that the move was “another successful illustration of the renowned IMO spirit of cooperation”.

“Crucially, this should be seen as a stepping stone towards decarbonization in the long term – something which must continue to be a major focus in the years ahead,” he said.

“Shipping moves 90 per cent of global trade, and people understand the link between trade and prosperity, but they demand we do it in a sustainable and responsible way. Climate change is real, and we have a responsibility to play our part in preventing further damage to the environment.”

Of particular note in the IMO strategy is specific reference to “a pathway” of reducing CO2 emissions in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goals. It also marks the first time the UN body has identified “levels of ambition” consistent with reducing GHGs in international shipping.

“I encourage you to continue your work through the newly adopted Initial GHG Strategy which is designed as a platform for future actions,” said Mr. Lim. “I am confident in relying on your ability to relentlessly continue your efforts and develop further actions that will soon contribute to reducing GHG emissions from ships.”

Head of the Liberia delegation at MEPC Isaac Jackson told The Loadstar Liberia could “fully support” the initial draft strategy. “This achievement, while not perfect, sends a positive message to the world that shipping is united in reducing GHG emissions,” said Mr. Jackson. “The IMO has taken a giant step that is very significant in reducing GHG emission in the context of the Paris Agreement.”

However, response from the world’s second largest shipping registry, the Marshall Islands, was less emphatic. President Hilda Heine said: “The IMO has made history, and while it may not give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes clear international shipping will now urgently reduce emissions. “This helps make every country safer, but even a landmark cap and clear targets to reduce GHGs consistent with Paris, we need to improve over time in line with the latest science.”

Global director of corporates and supply chain at Carbon Disclosure Project, Dexter Galvin, said while the progress was “good to see” the pledged 50 per cent reduction did not go far enough. “However, this does not stop individual companies taking the lead and getting ahead of tougher targets which are likely to be set in the years to come,” said Mr. Galvin. “The customers of shipping companies are increasingly demanding action and transparency from their suppliers. “By setting ambitious goals to reduce and report emissions to their customers, shipping companies can ensure they are resilient and seize a competitive advantage in the future.”

The IMO has agreed to hold a fourth inter-sessional meeting of its working group on reducing GHGs later in the year. It will develop follow-up actions to the initial strategy and consider how to further reduce shipping’s GHGs and report its findings to MEPC 73 in October.

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (