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IMO eyes further steps toward decarbonisation


IMO eyes further steps toward decarbonisation

The IMO has held virtual talks about potential short-term measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although unofficial, the discussions yielded some progress, according to critics of government action

THE International Maritime Organization has achieved some “success” during informal decarbonisation talks, according to participants.

The Clean Shipping Coalition and Pacific Environment, two groups that have consultative status in the IMO, said there was a “greater awareness among delegates” around the implications of targets.

Governments broadly acknowledged that adopting technical measures alone, such as a widely backed proposal for mandatory efficiency improvements in the existing fleet, known as EEXI, would not be enough and that operational measures would be needed too.

“Even some of the strongest backers of EEXI now acknowledge they are not proposing this measure in isolation, but that it should be complemented with an Operational Efficiency measure,” the Clean Shipping Coalition and Pacific Environment said in a joint statement.

Equally, however, goal-based operational efficiency measures will require carbon intensity rules as a means to enforce them.

“Most countries now understand that if a short-term measure is mandatory in name only, and CO2 reduction by each ship still remains optional, this would damage the reputation of the IMO and the industry itself,” they said.

The IMO’s aim to reduce carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 2008 would allow for shipping’s absolute CO2 emissions to be higher in 2030 than in 2008.

“There was also some acknowledgement that having sectoral emissions in 2030 even at the same level as 2008 would be increasingly hard to justify to the public, and that only substantial outright emissions reduction before 2030 would fulfil shipping’s contribution to the Paris Agreement,” the groups added.

Countries shared evidence during the talks that showed new operational efficiency measures and even strengthening the 2030 targets would save shipowners money because of the level of inefficiencies that exist at the moment, according to the NGOs.

“Consultants arguing that maintaining inefficient shipping routes is in the best interests of developing countries must now re-examine the evidence for this claim,” they said.

Small Island Developing States and other nations also stressed that the IMO needs to reduce emissions to such a point that is consistent with maintaining global temperature rises within 1.5°C.

A report by Carbon Tracker recently found that shipping’s 2050 target of reducing GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared with 2008 were consistent with maintaining temperature increases to between 2°C and 3°C.

Since the IMO adopted its initial GHG strategy in April 2018 governments have been unable to agree to short term measures but the expectation was that they would in 2020. Scheduled environmental negotiations for March and April this year were postponed until further notice due the coronavirus.

The next such meeting, MEPC 76, was expected to take place in October. Although no official announcement has been made on rearranging the meetings, it is possible that there will be no official meeting held until 2020.

Non-governmental organisations wrote to IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim in April to ask the IMO to consider holding official negotiations virtually. Mr Lim responded at the time that the IMO did not have the capability to do that.

The IMO later agreed to this week’s informal talks, which were held during the middle of the day, based on UK time.

The NGOs called for both MEPC 75 and MEPC 76 to be held “as soon as practical, and within this year if at all possible, if necessary, in a virtual or hybrid format”.