Last chance to prevent shipping’s breach of Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit

Civil society groups are deeply concerned about developments at the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) climate negotiations this week (ISWG-GHG-15), in particular regarding the 2030 and 2040 climate targets that are necessary to put global shipping on a 1.5°C-aligned transition and ensure an equitable transition.

The IMO’s 175 member states must urgently listen to climate scientists and agree to significantly improve its revised strategy proposal at the 80th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) next week, by adding a clear -50% emission reduction target for 2030 and zero by 2040. 

Governments must also act now to guarantee that this transition is just and equitable. Failing to deliver on this would green light shipping’s continued assault on our planet at the most decisive point in tackling the climate crisis.

While there was widespread support in the room for a target of zero-emission by 2050, this on its own would not be enough to prevent a global temperature rise beyond 1.5°C. 

Yet, even the 2050 target could now be downgraded from zero to net-zero leaving the door wide open to out of sector offsetting. The removal of any reference to the 1.5°C temperature limit from its revised strategy would also be a clear signal that the IMO is not focused on establishing a Paris Agreement compliant pathway for international shipping.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate science report has been clear that steep and immediate reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, including from shipping, is the only way to achieve the 1.5°C climate-heating limit agreed under the Paris Agreement. 

The recent CE Delft study shows that halving shipping emissions is technologically possible and will have minimal impacts on the cost of shipping. 

Around 32 countries pushed strongly for emission cuts by 2030 and 2040 this week, with an online movement of over 140,000 global citizens demanding the IMO to halve emissions from ships 2030.

The revised strategy to be agreed next week will be vital for determining future IMO climate policies, such as a global shipping levy of at least US$100/ton of greenhouse gas, which would provide much-needed revenue for climate-vulnerable countries, and a fuel greenhouse gas standard.

John Maggs, Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “Nothing matters more than what happens in the next few years and a level of ambition focused only on 2050 sends a signal that we have plenty of time and there’s no need to rush. 

“Everyone will sit and wait, investment will be withheld, and these precious years will be wasted. The 1.5°C limit will almost certainly be breached with terrible and likely irreversible consequences. The IMO really must not allow this to happen. A 1.5°C compliant target for 2030 should be the centerpiece of the revised strategy finalized next week.”

Faig Abbasov, Transport & Environment, said: “By removing any explicit reference to 1.5ºC and gutting out the 2030, 2040 and even 2050 targets, the IMO would essentially recognize that its revised strategy is not 1.5ºC compliant. 

“If they think that they could fool the whole world with this, they should think twice. Pacific Nations are at the brink of disappearing. European leaders must not abandon them by endorsing this pathetic draft strategy text and deploy all of their political capital to improve ambition during the final round of negotiations next week. It is not game over yet until MEPC 80 is over”.

Delaine McCullough, Ocean Conservancy, said: “The IMO is on the brink of historic failure in setting a 1.5oC-aligned emission reduction strategy – putting the world on the brink of catastrophic climate breakdown. 

“A strategy that only aims for “net zero” emissions from shipping “by” or “around 2050” and ignores the need for quick and deep cuts by the end of this decade will ensure heavily polluting business as usual. 

“The science is clear that the shipping sector must begin to cut its GHG emissions immediately and halve those emissions by 2030. The data is also in that this target is both technologically and economically feasible. 

“If the final 2023 strategy that is adopted next week does not include binding emission-reduction targets of half by 2030 and 100% by 2040, it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.”

Jim Gamble, Pacific Environment, said: “What we have seen this week at the IMO is nothing new and could represent a further erosion of elements that science has repeatedly told us are absolutely necessary to maintain a 1.5°C aligned pathway for the shipping industry. 

“If this week’s draft proposal is adopted next week, there would be no chance that shipping will peak its emissions in 2025 but in fact continue to rise. If the strategy isn’t significantly improved next week at MEPC, we will wonder if it’s even possible for the IMO to lead the effort to decarbonize the shipping industry.”

Ana Laranjeira, Opportunity Green, said: “The outcome of this week’s IMO meetings risks failing the most climate vulnerable countries and further exacerbating inequalities for these nations that contributed the least to the climate crisis. 

“We need the IMO to adopt science-based emissions targets that keep 1.5°C alive, and the revised IMO GHG Strategy needs stronger wording on the Organization’s duty to secure a fair, just, and equitable transition that leaves no one behind. MEPC 80 is the last chance to ensure that the IMO does not leave climate vulnerable countries behind.”

The IMO will revise its existing climate targets, which currently aim to only halve emissions from ships by 2050, at a climate summit from 3 to 7 July (MEPC 80).

Photo credit: iStock/ MAGNIFIER

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