NGOs demand IMO kick-starts shipping decarbonization to cut Arctic melt

As a meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (IMO, MEPC 78, June 6-10) opens, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on the IMO to deliver urgent action to curb climate impacts on the Arctic, by delivering meaningful short-term measures that would kick-start dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions from shipping this decade. 

The IMO is set to address short-term measures to reduce GHG emissions, mid-term measures including strengthening the carbon intensity indicator for ships, and to start considering a, hopefully ambitious, revision of the IMO’s GHG strategy. 

In addition, a proposal for a new emission control area covering the Mediterranean waters, which if agreed will reduce SOx and black carbon emissions in the region, will be on the table for approval during MEPC 78.

Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, made up of 20 not-for-profit organizations, said: “The IMO must improve its levels of ambition in the recently agreed short-term carbon intensity reduction measures including a 1.5°Celcius -compatible improvement in the carbon intensity of ships, and revise its climate targets to ensure a 50% reduction in CO2e emissions by 2030, and full decarbonization by 2040. 

“Only with concrete measures and immediate action to reduce emissions this decade do we have any hope of remaining below 1.5° Celsius heating globally, which is essential if we are to retain sea ice in the Arctic throughout the summer in the 2030s.

“To avert the worst impacts on an already over-heating Arctic, the IMO must also make immediate cuts to black carbon emissions from shipping in and near the Arctic, as well as reducing the industry’s global emissions of black carbon. 

“A switch to using distillate fuels in and near the Arctic would quickly reduce black carbon emissions by around 44% – practically overnight, while adding diesel particulate filters would reduce black carbon by over 90% – and that should be feasible before 2030.”

In April, following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III 6th Assessment Report on Climate Mitigation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lambasted governments and industry for their climate inaction, while the IPCC’s report criticized the poor climate governance of international shipping, saying that “improvements to national and international governance structures would further enable the decarbonization of shipping and aviation.”

“Climate scientists warn that we are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts. But, high‑emitting Governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye, they are adding fuel to the flames”, said Guterres, during a speech to mark the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III 6th Assessment Report on Climate Mitigation, on April 4th.

“Choices made by countries now will make or break the commitment to 1.5°C. A shift to renewables will mend our broken global energy mix and offer hope to millions of people suffering climate impacts today. Climate promises and plans must be turned into reality and action, now. It is time to stop burning our planet and start investing in the abundant renewable energy all around us,” said Guterres, on April 4th. 

“As a United Nations agency, the IMO must face up to the realities facing our planet, by aligning its priorities with the UN on climate change, and using its political power and the shipping industry’s vast technological resources to decarbonize the shipping sector,” concluded Prior.

Photo credit: iStock/ Jean Landry

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