The shipping industry’s leading global lobby group the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) last week ended its years-long opposition to carbon pricing.
It is imperative now that ICS and other sponsors should withdraw their IMRB proposal to allow time for discussion on carbon pricing, and support the far more serious and ambitious proposal for a $100/mt carbon price already on the table.
As advocates of climate and public health action, we note this U-turn as long overdue on the road to decarbonising the shipping industry – which at 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions a year and rising, is one of the world’s top ten largest polluters of the earth’s climate.
ICS Secretary-General Guy Platten, is reported as saying that a “realisation that everything has to be done in parallel”, from producing sustainable fuels and building bunker infrastructure to new engine technology, is behind the shift in ICS’s position. Many of our organisations have been explaining patiently over the last decade or so that all of these changes across the industry have to happen in parallel. So we welcome this realisation, even if it’s taken much longer than the science of planetary warming needed.
After its U-turn, ICS is now “calling on world leaders” to urgently examine the role of carbon pricing for the global shipping industry, and prioritize discussion of this topic.
We share this sentiment, but must point out the main obstacle to world leaders (or indeed any countries) discussing this topic is ICS’s own proposal for a meager $2/mt levy on bunker fuel. Instead of discussing carbon pricing, ICS has, since 2019, been pushing for this extremely small $2/mt levy on bunker fuel sold (equivalent to $0.67/tonne CO2), in order to fund an International Maritime Research Board (IMRB) to be housed at the United Nations shipping body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The IMRB proposal would take up most available bandwidth for discussion at IMO over the next few years – when, as ICS now agrees, we should urgently be designing and implementing a carbon pricing system, as well as developing new measures to urgently cut shipping’s climate impact in the short-term.
To show their seriousness of intent about prioritising carbon pricing discussions, ICS and other sponsors should officially withdraw their IMRB proposal to free up space in the IMO’s calendar.
Failing that, they should acknowledge the far more serious and ambitious proposal for a $100/mt carbon levy, submitted by the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands, and merge their IMRB ideas into that. There is no need to “bring forward” the discussions – this concrete proposal is on the table and will be discussed in the IMO’s June meeting. We look forward to hearing industry support for it.