Views differ after IMO emissions reduction talks

IMO Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions The meeting made progress on a list of possible CO2 reduction measures that might be taken forward by IMO in the short, medium and longer term. Image courtesy of the IMO

Shipping organisations involved in the IMO Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships are reportedly “broadly satisfied” with progress made during their second meeting last week.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO are said to be encouraged that proposals from the shipping industry regarding CO2 reduction objectives for international shipping were still being considered at last week’s talks, along with similar proposals from several IMO Member States.

IMO secretary-general, Kitack Lim, commented: "The working group made some considerable progress in bringing together the proposals for the different elements of the draft IMO GHG strategy.”

Reduction measures

The meeting made progress on a list of possible CO2 reduction measures that might be taken forward by IMO in the short, medium and longer term, with a recognition that the vision of reaching zero CO2 emissions will only be achieved by supporting the development of alternative fuels and propulsion technologies, and ensuring their global availability.

The industry associations expect IMO Member States to finalise a comprehensive CO2 reduction strategy for international shipping at the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in April 2018 that will match the ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  They will continue working with all IMO Member States and environmental NGOs to help achieve this shared objective.

The industry organisations want the IMO strategy to focus on maintaining international shipping's annual total CO2 emissions below 2008 levels; reducing CO2 emissions per tonne-km, as an average across international shipping, by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008; and reducing international shipping's total annual CO2 emissions by an agreed percentage by 2050, compared to 2008, as a point on a continuing trajectory of CO2 emissions reduction.

Heavy push-back

Environmental lobbyists painted a different picture however, arguing that calls for urgent action had met with 'heavy push back' from flag states and industry groups.

A statement issued by the environmental group Transport & Environment reported that 'a group of Pacific Island and mainly European states clashed repeatedly with those saying that decisions on immediate measures should await the final iteration of the IMO’s comprehensive GHG strategy in 2023, rather than be part of the “initial” strategy in 2018'.

As reported previously, one of the short-term measures to reduce emissions is restrictions on sailing speed. Transport & Environment shipping director Bill Hemmings noted that the measure's very feasibility may be the reason it met with resistance. "If, after 20 years of work, the IMO’s three-step approach to the climate crisis – report, analyse, decide – really only amounts to talk, talk, talk, then we should draw the obvious conclusion,” he said.

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