Shipping lobby block concrete emissions reduction goals at IMO meeting

Published by James Orr on

November 1st, 2017

The shipping industry ignored calls for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meeting last week, according to a leading environmental NGO.

The IMO – the UN body responsible for regulating the shipping sector – met in London last week to present a draft version of its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) from 2023.

Currently, the shipping industry produces three per cent of global GHG emissions and a 2015 European Parliament report estimates that the industry could emit up to 17 per cent of total emissions by 2050 if left unregulated.

According to Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), however, calls for immediate measures to reduce emissions was met with resistance at the meeting.

The Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC), of which T&E is a member, presented a study at the IMO meeting illustrating the potential of regulating ship speed for GHG emission reduction.

The study estimates that up to a third of emissions could be reduced by 2030 if there was a 30 per cent reduction in speed.

Despite hearing that GHG emissions from the shipping industry are rising, immediate climate action was “blocked” by “key flag states and developing countries” according to CSC President, John Maggs.

Mr Maggs added that the IMO’s strategy isn’t “fit for the purpose of tackling the climate crisis” as it “doesn’t prioritise emissions reductions in the next six years”.

Limiting Speeds

According to the CSC  report, limiting the speed of containers, tankers and bulk carriers – responsible for 52 per cent of the industry’s emissions –  would prevent 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere each year.

The report also estimates that the economic impact of this speed reduction would be minimal, with countries most heavily dependent on the shipping industry likely to lose less than 0.1 per cent of their GDP.

Shipping director at Transport & Environment Bill Hemmings stated that limiting ship speed is the only measure that can “deliver the substantial and immediate short-term emissions reductions that the Paris agreement demands”.

“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 added.

Corporate Capture

A new report from InfluenceMap, a London-based non-profit Community Interest Company, claims that the shipping industry has remained outside of the UN Paris Agreement on climate through “corporate capture” of the IMO.

According to the report, the main shipping trade associations in the IMO have lobbied to delay any GHG emissions reduction actions until 2023. The IMO will be meeting again in April 2018 to finalize their GHG strategy.

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James Orr

James is The Green New's Biodiversity Reporter and a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Dublin. James has a BA in Zoology from TCD.