Climate groups demand a breakthrough on cleaning up shipping at the UN

Countries must seize the momentum and turn their climate pledges into action at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is gathering next week for the 78th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 78).

The recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Meteorological Organization made clear that deep and immediate emission cuts across all sectors are imperative in order to avoid a climate disaster.

Delegates must use MEPC 78 to answer the urgent appeals from climate scientists. This means aligning the IMO’s climate strategy with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals as soon as possible, including fixing the current, toothless short-term measures to achieve deep emission cuts this decade. Delegates must also ensure a high level of environmental integrity and fairness in any future carbon pricing measure and/or fuel standard.

On the Initial GHG Strategy Revision: 

Global shipping is not yet aligned with the Paris Agreement. The IMO’s current target of “at least 50%” emission reduction by 2050 is wholly insufficient to achieve the 1.5°C climate-warming trajectory. This is in spite of the vast majority of IMO Member States having signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, committing to reducing emissions to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

Countries must bring their national commitments to the IMO, revise the current strategy to halve shipping emissions by 2030 and reach zero-emissions by 2040. This will require adopting additional, robust and ambitious short-term measures — many of which result in significant cost savings — such as slow-steaming, retrofitting vessels with wind propulsion systems and reducing emissions of  black carbon.

John Maggs, Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “How will the shipping industry respond to Code Red for humanity? More delay, special pleading and low ambition will spell disaster for the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree temperature threshold and for the future of life on this planet. Next week’s meeting must be a turning point for the IMO and the shipping industry. A revised IMO GHG Strategy must halve climate emissions before 2030 and be capable of decarbonising the sector completely by 2040. Carbon pricing and a fuel standard have important roles to play, but neither are a substitute for immediate action, which must start at this meeting.

Dan Hubbell, Ocean Conservancy, said: “The IMO has always claimed its goals are consistent with the Paris Agreement’s, and MEPC 78 is the chance for them to get serious about that commitment. As we lay the keystone for revising the Initial Greenhouse Gas Strategy the IMO must include real carbon emission reductions targets that will be met with truly ambitious emissions reduction measures that cut greenhouse gases this decade. We can meet this challenge and reduce shipping’s fossil footprint to zero by 2040 in an equitable way.” 

Faig Abbasov, Transport & Environment, said: “When it comes to cleaning up shipping, European governments are failing to practise what they preach. They tell the world to fully decarbonise by 2050, while aiming for just 75% emissions cuts at home. This is not only hypocritical but also unfair, putting the burden on developing countries and reducing Europe’s influence globally. Sustainable technologies for shipping are coming of age. We now need Europe’s politicians to catch up.”

On the mid-term measures:

A broad consensus is emerging at the IMO in favour of adopting a ‘basket of measures’, including a carbon price, a fuel standard, and an enhanced carbon intensity indicator. This is a welcomed step in the right direction, provided that the measures are ambitious enough to halve emissions by 2030, decarbonise shipping by 2040, and ensure an equitable transition of the sector as soon as possible. In particular:

  • A carbon levy: Any levy or other price on carbon must make a significant contribution to decreasing shipping emissions before 2030. The levy must support climate-vulnerable, developing countries with adapting to climate change and be set high enough to generate sufficient revenues to bridge the price gap between fossil and zero-emission fuels and technologies. The levy must also cover emissions on a Well-to-Wake basis.
  • A fuel standard: The global fuel standard must be designed to reduce the life-cycle greenhouse gas intensity of marine fuels and ban greenhouse gas emitting fuels by 2040. It must also include a dedicated sub-target to mandate at least 6% uptake of green e-fuels that can deliver zero-emission energy on a life-cycle basis by 2030 at the latest. Revenues (generated through penalties or an alternative compliance mechanism) must be used to promote an equitable transition and investments in zero-emission fuels.
  • Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII): The IMO must immediately enhance the existing CII measure by closing loopholes, strengthening enforcement, and requiring vessels to  improve their carbon intensity by at least 7% each year.

Wijnand Stoefs, Carbon Market Watch, said: “The 2020s are the critical decade for lowering greenhouse gas emissions – so we don’t have time to waste. The IMO must urgently build on the unprecedented broad support for a carbon price and adopt a measure that is fair, effective, capable of significantly reducing emissions before 2030 and supports climate-vulnerable countries. A levy reaching $400/t and more in this decade should be firmly on the IMO’s table next week. But a carbon price can only do so much on its own. We also need an effective ‘basket of measures’ that includes an ambitious fuel standard as well as strong short-term policies, such as an enhanced Carbon Intensity Indicator.”

Faïg Abbasov, Transport & Environment, said: “The message from the investors is clear. We need a guaranteed demand for green shipping fuels to kickstart large-scale production. To ensure this, the proposed measure for a global fuel standard must include a dedicated quota of 6% for green hydrogen-based fuels by 2030. Only by removing the demand risk on investments in fuel production can we reach a green shipping future”.

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