NGOs urge shipping CEOs to back reduction of black carbon emissions in Arctic

Reacting to news that MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd and Wallenius Wilhelmsen are calling for an end date of fossil-only powered newbuilds, Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Dr Sian Prior said: “The Clean Arctic Alliance notes with interest the joint statement from five of the largest shipping companies, calling for the creation of appropriate regulatory conditions to accelerate the transition to green fuels and decarbonize the shipping industry, and urges these industry leaders to add their voices to the 13-year-old discussions at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on control measures aimed at reducing emissions of black carbon – a potent climate forcer which makes up around one-fifth of shipping’s climate impact on a 20 year global warming potential basis.” 

On December 6 at COP28, during a side event in the Cryosphere Pavilion, the Clean Arctic Alliance drew attention to the fact that 13 years, ago when action was first proposed some IMO member states considered reductions in black carbon emissions from ships operating in the Arctic to be “absolutely necessary to forestall a climate tipping point”. 

In addition, it was foreseen that action to reduce black carbon emissions could help to provide “breathing time” for the necessary reductions in CO2 to take hold over the longer term.

“Sadly, that breathing space has been lost, and now action is urgently needed to reduce both black carbon and CO2 emissions from the shipping sector if we are to achieve the rapid, deep and sustained mitigation called for by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” said Prior 

“The first step must be for ships operating in the Arctic (above 60 degrees North) to move from heavy oil-based fuels to lighter distillate fuels for immediate reductions in black carbon emissions, and then for black carbon compliance thresholds to be established that can be tightened over time to eliminate black carbon emissions. Continuing to use heavy residual fuels or moving to alternative methane-based gas fuels is not acceptable.”

John Maggs, President of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “In addition to calling for action to set a course to transition from fossil fuels at scale and at pace, these industry leaders must take action themselves now to maximize the operational energy efficiency of their ships, including by slowing them down, make full use of alternative forms of propulsion such as wind, and support full implementation of existing measures, including the inclusion of shipping in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS)”.

Photo credit: iStock/ Alexey_Seafarer

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