November 1, 2016

Will the shipping industry join the rest of the world in fighting climate change?

With recent agreements reached to reduce super-warming pollutants used in air conditioning and refrigeration and to limit aviation emissions, we at Pisces were watching what would happen at last week’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Would the momentum continue and the shipping industry decide to join the rest of the world in fighting climate change or would it remain exempted from reducing its greenhouse gas emissions?

In the lead up to the meeting, 51 shipping industry organizations, including Maersk, The Danish Shipowners’ Association, and the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association wrote all the IMO member organizations, saying

“We support the discussion at MEPC to establish the shipping industry’s fair share of the global responsibility to address climate change. We call on the IMO member countries and their Heads of State to ensure that a clear, ambitious long-term objective is established and soon followed by ambitious actions that help to drive investment in low-carbon solutions.”

In the end, the IMO did take two positive, if small, steps forward. It agreed to keep in place a 2020 switch to lower-sulfur fuel and it agreed to a roadmap for developing a strategy to reduce shipping emissions over the next 7 years. However, on energy efficiency, the IMO declined to take the easy action in front of it and tighten the existing standards, even though ships are already exceeding them years ahead of schedule. As articles in the Guardian and ClimateHome point out, this isn’t the level of ambition required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.