The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is meeting this week to adopt a new greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy for shipping.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee aims to introduce new legally binding targets for its 173 member states as part of a new greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy for shipping. As the UN agency responsible for shipping, the IMO is seen as a vital stakeholder in reducing emissions in the maritime sector.
While recent global efforts to tackle climate change have focused heavily on decarbonisation, international shipping is not bound by commitments made to the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit global warming.
The international shipping sector is responsible for a significant proportion of carbon dioxide emissions, and is estimated to have a carbon footprint the size of Germany’s. For this reason, many stakeholders have called on the IMO to introduce its greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy for shipping.
What will the new strategy involve?
Ahead of the meeting, European Commissioners Violeta Bulc and Miguel Arias Cañete sent a joint letter to the MEPC’s stakeholders, detailing what the strategy would need in order to make the required impact on the environment.
The letter read: ‘In order to communicate the contribution of the sector to the global GHG emission reduction efforts, the strategy should be underpinned by adequate emission reduction objectives, consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. An emission reduction objective of 70%, pursuing efforts towards 100% by 2050 compared to 208 levels should be feasible and would correspond to an adequate contribution from the shipping sector.’
What are the challenges of introducing the new strategy?
According to Brussels-based non-governmental organisation Transport & Environment, the major challenges in introducing the new strategy and setting binding targets will be the unwillingness of certain stakeholders to compromise.
The organisation’s shipping director, Bill Hemmings, explained: “A determined minority are blocking ambition on capping emissions and defining a Paris-credible decarbonisation pathway. These moves are being portrayed as unachievable and a cap on world trade despite scientific evidence to the contrary being presented.”
He expressed concern that warnings from stakeholders in South Pacific nations, which are particularly vulnerable to climate changes, could be ignored in favour of calls for delaying action. He urged the IMO to prove its relevance to the climate process by delivering solutions to address shipping’s climate impact.