Shipping ahead of the game on CO2 emissions

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 01 November 2017


Last week, the IMO’s GHG working group met to devise a roadmap for shipping to reduce its CO2 output in the future. Criticism from lobby groups that too little was being done and that the shipping industry had undue influence over policy was strongly refuted by the IMO’s Secretary General.

The group agreed that candidate short-term measures could be those finalised and agreed by the MEPC between 2018 and 2023; candidate mid-term measures could be those finalised and agreed by the MEPC between 2023 and 2030; and candidate long-term measures could be those finalised and agreed by the MEPC beyond 2030.

Dates of entry into force and when the measure can effectively start to reduce GHG emissions would be defined for each measure individually.

The group highlighted the need to consider carefully the potential impact of measures on States, particularly the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The group also recognised the need to address barriers and provide supportive measures, including capacity building and technical cooperation; and research and development especially into alternative fuels.

The aim is to reach consensus at the next meeting. The Working Group's report, along with other submissions, will go forward to the third Intersessional Working Group session, scheduled to meet 3-6 April 2018. The third session is expected to finalise a draft initial IMO GHG strategy, to be put forward for adoption at MEPC 72 next April.

Shipping has been singled out by many lobby groups and mandated measures called for – including for shipping to be included in the EU emission trading system despite being specifically excluded from the Paris Agreement. According to claims made by those criticising the industry, shipping should do more despite being the only industry that has an internationally agreed CO2 reduction strategy in place in the shape of the EEDI.

However, it would appear that many other industries and sectors are doing even less than shipping. The UN Environment Emissions Gap Report 2017 report shows that most countries including the EU are failing in their own voluntary nationally declared commitments.

In the executive summary of the report (which can be accessed here ) it states that most G20 countries require new policies and actions to achieve their NDC pledges. The report includes an updated assessment of the emissions associated with the NDC pledges and current policies of each of the G20 countries, including the EU.

As these countries collectively generate around three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, their success in implementing (or exceeding) their NDC pledges will have a major impact on the achievement of the global temperature goals.

The assessment shows that for many countries, implementing their NDC would lead to lower emissions than the current policies scenario, or in other words that additional policies will have to be implemented to meet the NDC target.

Recent studies assessed suggest that Brazil, China, India and Russia are likely to – or are roughly on track to – achieve their 2030 NDC targets with currently implemented policies. Conversely, Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the Republic of Korea and the United States are likely to require further action in order to meet their NDCs, according to government and independent estimates.

Shipping may well emit quite large quantities of GHG, but it would appear that rather than being a laggard, the industry with its mandatory targets is in fact well ahead of the game and it is others that need to do more to play their part.

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