Activists want IMO to rapidly cut black carbon emissions from shipping

As a meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 77) opens November 22 in London, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on the IMO, its member states and international shipping to protect the Arctic by implementing a rapid decrease in emissions of black carbon from shipping in, or close to the Arctic, and to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon emissions from the global shipping industry. 

Black carbon is a short-lived climate forcer responsible for 20% of shipping climate impact (on a 20-year basis). When black carbon settles onto snow and ice, melting accelerates, and the loss of reflectivity creates a feedback loop exacerbating global heating. Black carbon emissions from shipping in the Arctic increased 85% between 2015 and 2019.

“This week, the IMO must tackle the impact of black carbon emissions on the Arctic, by urgently putting in place strong measures to drive rapid, deep cuts to black carbon emissions from shipping operating in or near the Arctic, and to urgently reduce CO2 and black carbon emissions from the maritime sector globally”, said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance. 

“The Clean Arctic Alliance supports the proposal for a resolution submitted to MEPC 77 by eleven IMO Member States that calls on ships operating in and near the Arctic to move from heavier, more polluting fuel oils to lighter distillate fuels with low aromaticity or other cleaner alternative fuels or methods of propulsion”, she added. 

“If all shipping currently using heavy fuel oils while in the Arctic were to switch to distillate fuel, there would be an immediate reduction of around 44% in black carbon emissions from these ships. If particulate filters were installed on board these vessels, black carbon emissions could be reduced by over 90%”.

“Recent IPCC findings show that the levels of climate ambition and timelines currently on the table for shipping at the IMO are totally inadequate”, continued Prior. “It is imperative that measures due for adoption at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 77) be strengthened to ensure they drive fast deep cuts in both CO2 and black carbon emissions from ships, especially those visiting or operating near the Arctic.”

NGO Statement:

On November 18, NGOs called on the IMO to halve shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and for IMO member states to urgently align the agency’s work on reducing climate impacts from shipping with the COP26 developments during MEPC 77. 

The statement called on IMO member states to:

  • Align shipping with the 1.5° degrees target: commit to reducing ship climate impacts on a timeframe consistent with keeping warming below 1.5°, including reaching zero by 2050 at the latest and halving emissions by 2030; 
  • Bolster short-term measures: reopen discussions on the level of ambition in the IMO’s short-term measure with a view to agreeing new targets consistent with halving emissions by 2030;
  • Tackle black carbon: take decisive action to address the impact on the Arctic of black carbon emissions, a short-lived climate forcer responsible for 20% of shipping climate impact; and
  • Set a GHG levy: agree a minimum US$100/ton levy on GHG emissions to raise climate finance and support a just transition to zero across the sector as called for at COP26.

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