International talks on shipping emissions stall

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) failed to reach agreement on global action to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping at a meeting in London last week [1]. Environmental groups have repeated calls for EU action in the absence of progress on global measures.

The objective of last week’s meeting was to first assess and then progress the work of an IMO expert group on market-based measures such as emissions-trading schemes that completed its work last summer.

But a clear split was evident between some developing countries who saw no compelling need for such a measure and those developed countries which proposed a number of options including emissions trading, a global levy on shipping and trading of fuel efficiency credits. A handful of developing countries continued to insist that the IMO must follow a principle of global climate talks that developing countries should have less responsibility for cutting emissions than developed ones. This issue continues to be a stumbling block to further progress.

The stalemate demonstrates that an IMO market based measure to reduce emissions from the maritime sector is still years away.

The EU has previously said that the IMO should take action on shipping emissions by the end of 2011 or it would take regional action. This latest setback means that deadline almost certainly cannot be met. In the meantime the EU has set a target for reducing ship emissions by 40% by 2050 [2]. Environmental groups Seas at Risk, Transport & Environment and Environmental Defence Fund believe the EU now needs to get on with the job of introducing a regional measure that can be extended globally if and when the IMO acts.

On a positive note, the meeting made progress on ways to ensure developing countries are not harmed economically by climate measures for shipping (known technically as ‘no net incidence’). There was also a useful discussion on the need for revenues from measures to flow to developing countries. But any consensus on a way forward would appear to remain years away.

Notes to editors:
[1] The IMO Intersessional Meeting on greenhouse gas emissions from International Shipping : Market-based Instruments was held in London 28 March – 1 April.
[2] The European Commission’s Transport 2050 white paper, launched last week:

SAR, T&E and EDF attended the IMO meeting on behalf of the Clean Shipping Coalition, which has observer status at the IMO.

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