July 20, 2009
IMO makes progress on limiting ships' GHG emissions
IMO is moving along with its efforts to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships. Its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is to circulate a package of interim and voluntary technical and operational measures to reduce these emissions.
The panel has also agreed a work plan to look further at what it calls "market-based instruments to provide incentives for the shipping industry" which simply means some sort of tax.
The MEPC says the measures are intended to be used for trial purposes until its March 2010 meeting, when they will be tweaked as needed prior to any regulatory action.
The measures include:
- interim guidelines on the method of calculation, and voluntary verification, of the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships, which is intended to stimulate innovation and technical development of all the elements influencing the energy efficiency of a ship from its design phase; and
- guidance on the development of a Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, for new and existing ships, which incorporates best practices for the fuel efficient operation of ships; as well as guidelines for voluntary use of the Ship Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator for new and existing ships, which enables operators to measure the fuel efficiency of a ship.
On the more contentious issue of so-called "market-based instruments," an IMO press circular contained the following:
The Committee held an in-depth discussion on market-based instruments and agreed a work plan for its further consideration of the topic, as of its next session (MEPC 60, March 2010), to build on discussions and submissions to date, taking into account also relevant outcomes of the climate change conference (COP 15) that the United Nations will convene in Copenhagen in December 2009. Such instruments would have two main purposes: to offset growing emissions in other sectors; and to serve as an incentive for the industry to invest in more fuel-efficient technologies.
The outcome of the MEPC on GHG emissions from ships will be reported to COP 15, which will consider a successor instrument to the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC.
The MEPC had available to it the results of the second IMO study on greenhouse gas emissions from ships, 2009. This estimated that ships engaged in international trade in 2007 contributed about 2.7 per cent of the world's human activity related CO2 emissions, The study also said that emission reductions are feasible through technical and operational measures as well as through the introduction of the so-called "market-based reduction mechanisms."
IMO says that in the absence of global policies to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, the emissions may increase by between 150 and 250 percent by the year 2050 due to the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade.