Shipping industry urged not to ‘miss the boat’ on emissions reductions

Calls for the global shipping industry to reduce its carbon emissions intensified this week as a coalition of companies from across the sector have demanded climate action from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ahead of a forthcoming committee meeting.

The SSI – a collection of business and NGOs worth $0.5trn – believes that the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 69) – which takes place on 18 April – must, as a minimum, agree on the development of a fast-track plan that will see the formal agreement and implementation of significant and early emissions reductions for shipping.

The industry leaders have called upon the IMO to put in place ambitious but realistic plans that would see the maritime industry take more responsibility by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The calls come as latest figures show that, if left unchecked, emissions from shipping will increase up to 250% by 2050 – a rate of emissions growth clearly incompatible with the ambitious climate target of 2C  global warming agreed at the COP 21 meeting in Paris last December.

Time for action

SSI chief executive Alastair Fischbacher says the current state of play  is “simply unacceptable”, and is  urging the IMO to swiftly set out a robust and ambitious emissions reduction plan.

 “The time for business as usual is over, and the time for action is now,” said Fischbacher. “MEPC 69 is the platform to demonstrate this. A number of member states and industry bodies have submitted papers for the development of a work plan that defines the industry’s fair share of efforts to reduce GHG emissions.  This must be the minimum outcome from MEPC 69, which will set the foundation for shipping to contribute to the less than 2C warming target set at COP21.

“It is critical that the IMO now drives this this forward. Right now, the opportunity for change is in the industry’s hands, and inaction will increase calls for regulatory and legislative influence from outside shipping.  And, crucially, any further delays will only increase the scale of the GHG challenge that the industry faces.”

The SSI recently launched its new sustainability roadmap– a set of key milestones and priorities which must be met in order to create a sustainable shipping industry by 2040. One of the six cores areas included in the roadmap is the requirement to reduce emissions by changing to a diverse range of energy sources as well using resources more efficiently.

Rocky waters

In related news, a recent report by environmental research organisation CE Delft has revealed that newly-built ships covered by the IMO’s design fuel efficiency standard have much the same efficiency performance as those not covered. The report found that the standard is not stimulating the uptake of new technologies or driving efficiency improvements.

Commenting on the study, Sotiris Raptis, shipping policy officer for Transport & Environment (T&E) – which commissioned the study – said: “The tightening of requirements for the design efficiency of new ships is the first test of the IMO’s climate ambition after Paris.

“Missing this boat until the next review in six years’ time would seriously undermine the efforts of countries that committed to strive towards the 1.5C. Those countries that supported the Paris Agreement, not least EU countries, should not stand by and see this ambition set aside at IMO.”

This flurry of shipping emissions news follows a series of disappointing headlines that have cast a shadow over the future of carbon reductions in the industry. Last year, IMO shelved plans to place an emissions cap on the world’s shipping fleet. This untimely announcement was compounded when a New Climate Economy report revealed that, while the world’s aviation and maritime sectors are currently responsible for around 5% of global emissions, that figure is growing rapidly and total emissions between the two sectors could rise three-fold by 2050.

Both the aviation and shipping industries were excluded from the final draft of the legally binding text agreement at COP21.

George Ogleby

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