Shipping sector has power to rapidly reduce black carbon emissions, say NGOs

As the International Maritime Organization (IMO) gathers July 3 for a meeting of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80, July 3-7), the Clean Arctic Alliance called on IMO member states to adopt ambitious interim targets that will lead to a 50% reduction in shipping’s climate impact by 2030, commit to delivering mandatory black carbon emissions reductions from shipping – which impact the Arctic, and to support designation of new Emission Control Areas (ECAs) to reduce air pollution in the Arctic.

“During MEPC 80, governments can change the world by slashing shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 – and 100% by 2040,” said Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Dr Sian Prior. “As a recent study shows, this can be achieved without impacting trade.

“Amidst the current climate and biodiversity crisis, halving greenhouse gas emissions would set a crucial precedent by global shipping that would inspire other sectors to follow.

“However, as the planet is already considered to have heated by around 1.1 degrees Celsius, we must take advantage of ‘low-hanging fruit’: that means slashing black carbon emissions from shipping that are contributing to Arctic warming.

“The shipping sector has the power to rapidly reduce its emissions of black carbon – what’s needed now is the political will.

“Reducing black carbon emissions from shipping in and near the Arctic is straightforward, does not require development of new fuels or new technology, and can be achieved immediately.

“Individual marine engines would see up to a 80% reduction in black carbon emissions depending on the engine by moving from heavy fuels to diesel fuels (the type and condition of the engine, and load of the ship are also factors). Moving all the ships operating in the Arctic and currently using heavy fuels will result in around a 44% reduction in black carbon emissions. Installing a diesel particulate filter – an existing technology used in land-based transport but which can only be used with cleaner fuels, would reduce black carbon emissions by over 90%.

“News that the Arctic – a major regulator of the global climate – considered by climate scientists to now be warming as much as four times faster than the planet as a whole, and the possibility of days with no summer sea ice – known as blue ocean events – as soon as the 2030s raises serious concerns.

“We have known for around three decades that reducing black carbon emissions is necessary, due to its climate and health impacts. On land, considerable effort has been made to ban dirtier fuels in power stations, and to install diesel particulate filters on land-based transport, but despite over a decade of prevarication the same efforts have not yet been made at sea.

“The International Maritime Organization truly has a chance to pluck low-hanging fruit, by cutting black carbon emissions, and while no major decisions on reduction of black carbon emissions are expected week, it does provide the opportunity for the IMO to bring forward concrete proposals for cutting these emissions for consideration in early 2024.”

Photo credit: iStock/ Alexey_Seafarer

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