At MEPC 80, shipping sector must cut 50% emission by 2023, say NGOs

Next week’s International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (IMO, MEPC 80) meeting in London is set to finalize the revision of the organization’s greenhouse gas strategy, which is crucial for setting the course for reduction of climate warming emissions from the shipping sector – and for its eventual decarbonization.

Shipping accounts for almost 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than Germany’s overall emissions and close to that of Japan. A report published this week shows that ships can achieve 36-47% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 2008 levels by deploying 5-10% zero or near-zero emission fuels, wind-assist technologies, and by ‘climate optimizing’ the speed of ships. 

At MEPC 80, the Clean Arctic Alliance is calling is on IMO Member States to:

  • adopt highly ambitious interim targets addressing all climate forcers which will lead to a 50% reduction in shipping’s climate impact by 2030 – see Global shipping can halve emissions without impacting trade, study finds ahead of key UN decision; commit to preparing concrete proposals for approval in 2024 which deliver mandatory black carbon emissions reductions by all ships which impact the global Arctic; and 
  • support the designation of new Emission Control Areas (ECAs) to reduce air pollution in the Arctic while agreeing not to install scrubbers to comply with new emission thresholds.

Clean Arctic Alliance says: “News that the Arctic – a major regulator of the global climate – considered by climate scientists to now be warming as much as four times faster than the planet as a whole, and the possibility of days with no summer sea ice – known as blue ocean events – as soon as the 2030s raises serious concerns” said Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Dr Sian Prior. 

“As the planet is already considered to have heated by around 1.1 degrees Celsius, we must take advantage of ‘low-hanging fruit’ like slashing black carbon emissions.

“We have known for around three decades that reducing black carbon emissions is necessary, due its climate and health impacts. On land, considerable effort has been made to ban dirtier fuels in power stations, and to install diesel particulate filters on land-based transport, but despite over a decade of prevarication the same efforts have not yet been made at sea.

“Yet the shipping sector has the power to rapidly reduce emissions of black carbon”, continued Prior. “Reducing black carbon emissions from shipping in and near the Arctic is straightforward, does not require development of new fuels or new technology, and can be achieved immediately.

“Individual marine engines would see up to a 80% reduction in black carbon emissions depending on the engine by moving from heavy fuels to diesel fuels (the type and condition of the engine, and load of the ship are also factors). Moving all the ships operating in the Arctic and currently using heavy fuels will result in around a 44% reduction in black carbon emissions. Installing a diesel particulate filter – an existing technology used in land-based transport but which can only be used with cleaner fuels, would reduce black carbon emissions by over 90%.”

Photo credit: Ziba Photo Media. Humpback whales, Ilulissat Icefjord, Unesco World Heritage Site, Greenland.

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