COMMENT: Credit where credit is due – we should commend IMO efforts to address shipping’s CO2

Published 11:44 on November 1, 2016  /  Last updated at 00:56 on November 2, 2016  /  Conversations, International, Shipping, Views  /  No Comments

The recent agreement by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to a develop a comprehensive CO2 reduction road map is a significant decision giving further impetus to the substantial CO2 reductions that are already being delivered by the shipping industry, writes Simon Bennett of the International Chamber of Shipping.

By Simon Bennett, director, International Chamber of Shipping

The recent agreement by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to a develop a comprehensive CO2 reduction road map is a significant decision giving further impetus to the substantial CO2 reductions that are already being delivered by the shipping industry.  This is the message the industry will be delivering at COP22 UN climate conference in Marrakesh next week.

Yet a number of environmentalist NGOs have chosen to criticise the IMO road map.

There appears to be some misunderstanding about what IMO member states have agreed, as well as insufficient recognition of what has already been achieved by the industry and its global regulator.

Initial CO2 reduction commitments will be developed for the sector by 2018 (not 2023) and should reflect the spirit and ambition of the Paris Agreement while being appropriate to the circumstances that apply to international shipping (just as INDCs reflect the circumstances of different national economies).

The road map will build on the mandatory CO2 reduction regulations for shipping already adopted by IMO in 2011 (four years before the Paris Agreement) which will ensure that ships built after 2025 will be at least 30% more efficient than in the 2000s.

However, it will actually go much further.  The final stage of the road map to be enacted by 2023 should establish a global mechanism for ensuring that these initial IMO commitments will actually be delivered – something which is currently not a feature of the Paris Agreement.

Key to this is the mandatory global CO2 data collection system, which has been legally adopted and will be enforced worldwide (which ICAO has yet to develop for aviation).  This will enable the initial CO2 commitments agreed in 2018 to be further refined using the very latest data on ships’ emissions which will become fully available from 2019.

But most importantly, the IMO data system will inform the development of a mechanism by IMO for ensuring that the CO2 reduction commitments are indeed fully met.

This will include deciding the extent to which technical and operational measures alone might be insufficient to deliver the IMO CO2 reduction commitments that are initially agreed in 2018.

The sector actually reduced its total CO2 emissions by more than 10% between 2007 and 2012 – while the rest of the world economy, even taking account of INDCs committed in Paris – will probably continue increasing emissions at least until the 2030s.  However, the industry fully recognises that society expects even more.

Simon Bennett is Director of Policy and External Relations at the International Chamber of Shipping.

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