IMO, left to its own devices, has failed to tackle shipping’s GHG emissions

Statement by the Clean Shipping Coalition in response to recent statement by the Secretary General of the IMO on the subject of shipping and climate change

Mr Koji Sekimizu illustrates very well in his statement why the International Maritime Organisation has so far failed to grasp the nettle over ship GHG emissions and why its future role must be guided by an agreement in Paris. His insistence that shipping and its emissions will grow with world trade and that emission reductions are only possible at a ship level, echo the views of a complacent industry. It suggests that the IMO, left to its own devices, would be unable to show the sort of leadership that the industry needs if it is to prepare for the future and play a proper role in tackling climate change.

Paris is not a dispute between UN organisations. It is about all countries and economic sectors taking action to ensure a temperature increase is limited to 1.5/2 degrees. The draft Paris text maintains the IMO’s authority, but states that it must use this authority to introduce measures to ensure that when trade grows, emissions do not grow with it. We know it is technically possible; now the IMO must make it politically possible.

The references to the EEDI are misleading and another illustration of why the IMO needs careful guidance. With industry involvement, the IMO chose a baseline for the EEDI from a period of historically low ship design efficiency, thereby guaranteeing that ships built today don’t have to be much better than those built in the 1980s.

Making big claims about reductions in emissions during a period of recession also looks like bad faith. Those reductions are, for the most part, the result of slow steaming, which is a result of over-capacity in the fleet. When demand catches up with the supply of ships there is nothing to stop ships returning to their design speeds and emissions ballooning.

By dismissing any measures that might have an impact on the volume of shipping, the Secretary General is saying that putting a price on shipping’s carbon emissions can never play a role in controlling its emissions. With that statement he puts the shipping sector lagging behind even the oil industry that has issued a call for a global carbon price. With the three largest trading blocs, and some of the largest shipping registries, now having agreed to absolute emission reductions, the so-called ‘servant of world trade’ is now also behind even its own customers.

The IMO also needs wise leadership, free from the overweening influence of industry and Flags of Convenience. The outgoing Secretary-General’s statement compounds his support for the IMO’s rebuff last May of the call by the Marshall Islands, the world’s third largest ship registry, and other vulnerable Pacific Island countries for the establishment of a global ship GHG emissions reduction target. By speaking out in this way, the head of the IMO has, on the eve of his departure from the post, taken a political position against a proposal that was supported by a large and important part of the IMO membership. The need for Paris to act is greater than ever.

For the Clean Shipping Coalition:

John Maggs


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