NGOs urge IMO chief to stop Arctic meltdown

International NGOs have sent an urgent letter to International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General, Kitak Lim, calling on him to take action to address international shipping’s climate impact, ahead of Friday’s crucial decision on IMO measures on black carbon emissions in the Arctic.

“Now is the moment for decisive action by the IMO to ensure that black carbon emissions from shipping do not contribute any further to an Arctic meltdown. Now is NOT the moment for “goal-based” measures, guidelines or voluntary action,” reads the letter, titled Last ditch battle at the IMO to save the summer sea ice!, and signed by Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of 21 international non-governmental organizations.

The letter, copied to the UNFCCC, UNEP and EU, and IMO Member States, highlights how after 11 years of discussion on how to address the impacts of black carbon in the Arctic, the global shipping agency is coming under growing expectation to provide a response proportionate to the climate emergency ahead of this year’s COP 26 climate summit.

The open letter stated that “At current rates of carbon emissions, Arctic sea ice may disappear some summers by 2035, exacerbating other climate impacts such as permafrost thaw and sea-level rise from the Greenland ice sheet. Black carbon emissions from shipping are speeding this loss, and climate heating in the Arctic has an impact around the world.

“This Friday, the IMO’s Pollution, Prevention and Response subcommittee meets to decide on measures to address international shipping’s climate impact on the Arctic. Work on these measures was kicked off exactly 11 years ago this week.

“On Friday the IMO must agree to move to implement mandatory measures that will result in rapid reductions in black carbon emissions from international shipping. 

“That first move should require all ships operating in and near the Arctic to switch immediately to cleaner fuels. 

“Distillates are the obvious candidate as this transition can be realized literally overnight. Applying such a move to all ships in the Arctic now operating on HFOs or VLSFOs would see an immediate reduction in black carbon emissions from Arctic shipping of 44%.

“Subsequent work will also be necessary to address the issue of aromatics and to co-develop an engine standard and measurement protocol, but these will only result in emissions reductions in the longer-term and are not a substitute for an immediate switch to distillates for ships in the Arctic.”

The open letter concluded by stating that “amid heightened global concern about the climate crisis and the loss of Arctic sea ice, the world is watching IMO and its Member States and expecting a response proportionate to the Arctic climate emergency.”

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