In the run-up to the UN’s climate change conference in December, an international economic organisation representing developed nations has called for drastic measures to curb shipping emissions.
The International Transport Forum (ITF), the transport division of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), issued a policy brief this week where it lays out its recommendations to cut ship-related CO2 emissions.
These include making the International Maritime Organization (IMO) more accountable for reductions by submitting its “action plan and annual progress reports” to the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change Conference of Parties “for scrutiny”.
The IMO, as a specialist UN agency, has been given full responsibility and oversight for emissions and was thus not bound by the 1997 Kyoto agreement.
In response to the ITF, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said the IMO should maintain control. However, one IMO member state, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MI), is not supportive.
The country’s ministry of foreign affairs has issued a statement accusing the IMO of ignoring the Marshall Islands’ plea to set “an ambitious target for shipping to reduce its emissions commensurate with maintaining a no more than 1.5° global warming threshold”. The Marshall Islands had said this should be set prior to the 21st Conference of Parties (‘COP21’) in December.
The ICS responded by saying the Marshall Islands’ request had been placed on the agenda of the next IMO Marine Environment Committee Protection Committee meeting in April 2016, where it will be “debated fully, taking account of the outcome” of COP21.
The IMO would not respond directly to the Marshall Islands’ allegations, which were not sent to it. Sources close to the organisation told IHS Maritime that only discussion of a regulatory regime affecting the shipping sector should be conducted at the IMO, because this is the body that understands the nuances and peculiarities of international shipping that any regulatory regime would need to take into account.
Other key ITF recommendations for cutting ship-related emissions include: cutting subsidies for shipyards to reduce vessel overcapacity and encourage higher ship utilisation; setting an emissions target in line with UN goals; and a tax on carbon to generate USD26 billion for a UN fund that aims to raise USD100 billion by 2020 to finance climate mitigation projects in developing countries.
The last of these presented the main point of contention for the ICS. It said: “ICS questions why international shipping should accept a carbon price of USD25/tonne of CO2, as proposed by the ITF. This would be almost three times higher than the carbon price paid by shore-based industries in developed nations.”
It further argued that such a move would expect an industry that is responsible for about 2.2% of worldwide carbon emissions to pay one-quarter of the UN’s proposed fund.
The UN wants to limit global warming to 1.5-2°C by 2100. ‘Pathways’ to reduce CO2 to achieve this goal were set out in the 2009 Copenhagen Agreement.
Thus the ITF has called on the shipping sector to apply a 2°C pathway that would require it “to cut CO2 emissions from its ships to 0.4 billion tonnes by 2050 and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2080”.
In response, the ICS said it recognised the industry’s responsibility to contribute to the achievement of the UN’s 2° climate change goal and confirmed that it was “committed to reducing CO2”.
But the two organisations do not agree on how this is to be achieved. The ITF believes the measures taken by the IMO to date are insufficient. These consist of ship design regulations for new ships: the EEDI (Energy Efficiency Design Index) and the SEEMP (Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan).
“Although these measures will certainly have an effect in moderating the growth of shipping emissions, their full implementation will not be enough to halt the growth of, let alone reduce, shipping emissions in the future,” said the ITF.
The ICS has disagreed, saying it believed “significant” reductions would be delivered by the EEDI along with “further operational measures and the impact of new technology”.