Shipping industry torpedoes emissions reduction targets

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has shelved plans to place an emissions cap on the world's shipping fleet.

Shipping accounts for 2-% of global emissions, but this is expected to rise rapidly in the coming decades

Shipping accounts for 2-% of global emissions, but this is expected to rise rapidly in the coming decades

A meeting of the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) discussed the plans for 90 minutes at a meeting in London this week before saying they would be reconsidered “at a future date”.

A global target for greenhouse gas shipping emissions was proposed in April by the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum. The island nation is reportedly under threat from rising sea-levels which it attributes at least partially to shipping emissions.

When introducing the proposal, De Brum said “The goal of keeping the global temperature rise under 2C requires action from all countries, and all sectors of the global economy. International shipping must be part of the action.

“While the sector currently contributes only 2-3% of global emissions, its projected growth is a real cause for concern. Without urgent action, it is estimated that the sector could soon account for between 6-14% of global emissions – as much as the entire European Union emits today.”

Industry reaction

The IMO’s failure to support the proposal was summarily condemned by green groups, with Transport and Environment claiming: “The IMO decided today that business as usual is more important than agreeing that international shipping must make its fair contribution to combatting climate change.”

A statement from the group continued: “Of even greater regret is that important European countries – not to mention the US, Australia and Japan – couldn't even bring themselves to mention the word target.

“Once again it's up to the UNFCCC meeting in Paris at the end of the year to make clear that global action on the climate requires all sectors to act.”

The European Parliament agreed in April, a new law requiring shipping owners using EU ports to report on the CO2 emissions of their vessel. However, there is no obligation to reduce those emissions.

John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said: "Today the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, and other small island Pacific states brought courage, clarity of purpose and the urgency of the climate change crisis to the IMO, perhaps for the first time.

“The failure of the IMO to grasp the significance of this moment and make an urgently needed step change in the pace of ship GHG emission reductions was shameful."

Brad Allen


| CO2 | gas | shipping | transport


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