Over the course of the year the extent of the shipping industry’s confusion – some would say delusion – on how to clean up its emissions became clear. Sitting in meeting rooms in London and Paris, we heard officials from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and industry profess their opposition to regional measures to reduce CO2 and then fail to address the problem at the global forum, the Paris climate conference.
During my second year of attending the IMO’s marine environment protection committee (MEPC), which deals with air pollution and CO2 emissions from shipping, anxiety about these measures intensified and industry became more vocal especially after the adoption of the first EU regulation addressing shipping CO2 emissions.
Monitoring and reporting of the emissions (MRV) at EU level is, however, just a first step – falling well short of actually requiring ships to do something about reducing their emissions from one of the few sectors exempt from the EU climate target. This regulation, which came into force across the EU in July 2015, was nevertheless more than enough to cause an outburst of protest from the IMO secretary general and at the opening of the May 2015 IMO MEPC. In the presence of the delegation of the European Parliament, attending an IMO meeting for the first time, it was emphatically stated that the preference of the industry and the IMO was for international measures.
In the run-up to Paris COP21 though, both the IMO and industry rebuked any serious proposals to address shipping emissions in the new international climate agreement. The IMO secretary general admitted that ‘world leaders might be tempted to consider specific measures aimed at reducing shipping’s overall contribution’ but discouraged them from doing so saying that ‘such measures […] must be avoided’. This statement, being in clear contrast with IMO and industry appeals for international regulation, epitomises the resistance not only to regional reduction measures but apparently to the very idea of measures.
The requirenent to act on shipping emissions lived through several rounds of intensive negotiations over the COP 21 text. It was dropped from the draft text two months before COP21, reinserted a few weeks later and finally killed altogether just three days before the final Agreement.
The new climate agreement fails to explicitly mention shipping but there is reference to ambitious long-term targets, which require urgent emissions reductions from all sectors of the global economy. Its commitment to keep warming well below 2°C while aiming for 1.5°C adds an additional urgency to the sector’s task. It’s almost impossible to achieve these global targets without shipping. Either the IMO will have to live up to these requirements or indeed the EU and other countries will have to take measures.