World leaders must cut emissions to curb Arctic heating, says Clean Arctic Alliance

The Clean Arctic Alliance is calling for greater ambition on heavy fuel oil ban, Arctic black carbon cuts of 90% and global greenhouse gas emissions by 60%.

Responding to reports that the annual freeze of the Laptev Sea is delayed, and is being driven by prolonged heat in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters into the Arctic, the Clean Arctic Alliance reiterated its call to world leaders to take urgent action to slow Arctic heating ahead of this month meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 75), calling for at least a 60% global greenhouse gas emissions, and a 90% cut to black carbon emissions in the Arctic. 

“Science shows that the planet has not experienced CO2 levels this high for three million years. As the slow start to this winter’s freezing of the Laptev Sea is demonstrating, and with global mean temperatures already showing an increase of 1.1° Celsius and the Arctic heating twice as much, unless urgent and collective action is taken, a 2° Celsius increase will prove a disaster to human health and wellbeing, our economies and the environment”, said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance.

“As well as reducing CO2 emissions, every effort must be made to reduce emissions of short-lived climate forcers such as methane and black carbon – most dramatically in the Arctic, where black carbon emissions must be cut by over 90%,” added Prior. “At a time when the global mantra is to reduce emissions, it is unacceptable that in the shipping sector, emissions of black carbon are actually growing.”

“The loss of sea ice not only allows for greater access to the Arctic and its resources by ships and maritime industries, but it also lengthens the time over which ships can operate in the Arctic. These activities drive an increase in the risks to the Arctic, its communities and its wildlife – risks of heavy fuel and distillate oil spills, increased black carbon emissions, increased underwater noise, and discharges of greywater and scrubber wastes”, continued Prior. 

Recently published work by the IMO shows that globally shipping black carbon emissions have grown by 12 per cent between 2012 and 2018, while work from the International Council on Clean Transportation found that in the Arctic black carbon emissions from the Arctic shipping fleet grew by 85 per cent in only four years between 2015 and 2019.

The Clean Arctic Alliance is calling on world leaders to take the following urgent action to slow the impacts of global heating on the Arctic:

  • Show leadership by example, by accelerating national and regional policies and practices that will fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement, especially that of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius – requiring an at least 60% reduction in emissions by 2030.
  • Through the IMO, adopt mandatory measures to reduce ship speed to effect deep immediate reductions in climate emissions from ships.
  • Agree on an effective and credible IMO regulation which bans the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil by Arctic shipping from January 2024 – without exemptions or waivers for any vessels. 
  • Support a mandatory IMO regulation requiring ships to switch from heavy fuels to distillate fuels (or other cleaner fuels) in the Arctic, and install efficient particulate filters in vessels, in order to reduce black carbon emissions by over 90% in the Arctic region, where black carbon emissions are especially damaging.

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