Enough talk, time for IMO to cut climate impacts, say activists

Ahead of next week’s meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (IMO, IWSG-GHG-16, March 11-15) and the subsequent Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 81, March 18-22), the Clean Shipping Coalition is calling on the IMO to take action in three key areas.

  • Tracking and measuring energy efficiency: Improving the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) will quantify and raise ship efficiency while fostering greater transparency and driving deep and lasting reductions in pollution.
  • Global fuel/energy standards: Clear, enforceable fuel/energy standards will catalyze the transition to clean energy. By incentivizing investment in wind power and zero-GHG fuels, these standards will reduce emissions and spur the creation of green jobs and resilient economies worldwide.
  • Equitable implementation of a pollution fee: Holding polluters accountable via a greenhouse gas emission levy, would ensure a just and equitable transition to clean shipping. The resulting revenue can be used to support vulnerable nations and ensure all can play a part in the energy transition.

Clean Shipping Coalition President John Maggs, said: “Setting goals is one thing, but agreeing and implementing the regulations that will propel the shipping sector towards a clean and just transition is quite another matter. 

“The hard work for the IMO starts during next week’s ISWG meeting, when it can avail of several tools to achieve these changes. A greenhouse gas (GHG) levy on ship fuel, such as the $150 proposal from Pacific Island countries and Belize, is essential to funding a just energy transition and ensuring no-one is left behind.”

“An IMO GHG fuel or energy standard is also needed to incentivize the uptake of wind propulsion and ensure that future new fuels are available when required.

“Most importantly, the IMO must move swiftly to revise its Carbon Intensity Indicator and agree tough new requirements to ensure that ships improve energy efficiency year on year. This is especially important to ensure the lowest cost, most efficient energy transition and to incentivize shipping behavior, such as slower speeds, that will also provide important ocean health co-benefits.”

Woman drinks water on a hot day. Photo credit: iStock/ maruco

Delaine McCullough, Shipping Emissions Policy Manager at Ocean Conservancy, said: “When it comes to setting the binding policies that will ensure the shipping industry actually meets–and ideally surpasses–the emission reductions called for in the 2023 GHG strategy, there are several pieces to the policy puzzle. 

“And it is critical that this transformation does not come at the expense of geographically remote and climate-vulnerable countries, especially small islands, that already face high shipping costs and are being forced to adapt to the impacts of climate change—a crisis which these countries contributed the least to.

“Given the urgency and complexity of the IMO’s task, there is no time to waste debating any proposals that will fail to deliver on either maritime pollution or an equitable transition.

“Instead, the IMO must focus on strengthening energy efficiency measures, implementing technical and economic policies that effectively drive industry action, and ensuring a zero-emission maritime energy transition that leaves no one behind. The time for ambitious, thoughtful action is now.”

Faig Abassov, Director, Shipping, at Transport and Environment, said: “Shipping’s climate transition is intricately linked to the speed and the scale of investments in green energy, like green methanol and ammonia, in renewables-rich countries. 

“However, no sane investor will put their money into green fuels production until there is demand from the shipping sector. Therefore, it is imperative that IMO develops ambitious and effective green fuel standard and carbon pricing to send investment certainties for future suppliers. It is crunch time to push green projects across the finish line!”

Anais Rios, Shipping Policy Officer at Seas At Risk, said: “International shipping is embarking on an important journey and must take strides towards both decarbonization and reducing its impact on ocean life. While decarbonization is crucial, there are also other pressing issues that need addressing: chemical and oil spills, whale strikes and underwater noise pollution are common occurrences in shipping, seriously undermining ocean health.

“By embracing wind power, and implementing well-designed regulations that drive improvements in operational energy efficiency, shipping can both decarbonize and also protect ocean health. It is crucial that we prioritize these advancements, guiding the maritime sector towards a more sustainable future and keeping global heating below the critical 1.5 degree Celsius threshold.”

Top photo credit: iStock/ maroke

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