Shipping not in COP21 agreement: Now what?

DECEMBER 14,2014 — Shipping and aviation were not explicitly included in the text of the Paris Agreement adopted at last week's COP21 conference on climate change. Opinions are divided on whether that amounts to a bullet dodged or an opportunity missed.

Be that as it may, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) says it "greatly welcomes" the agreement and that "the shipping industry remains committed to ambitious CO2 emission reduction across the entire world merchant fleet, reducing CO2 per tonne-km by at least 50% before 2050 compared to 2007."

Despite the absence of an explicit reference to shipping, ICS says that the message from the world's governments is clear.

"I am sure IMO Member States will now proceed with new momentum to help the industry deliver ever greater CO2 reductions, as the world moves towards total decarbonization by the end of the century" said ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe.

ICS will engage meaningfully in discussions at IMO, expected to begin in earnest at a critical meeting in April 2016, about the possibility of agreeing a CO2 reduction target for shipping. ICS is also pushing for IMO to finalize a global CO2 data collection system for ships, which ICS would like to see mandatory as soon as possible, prior to IMO deciding on the necessity of additional actions such as a developing a Market Based Measure.

ICS says that dramatic CO2 reductions from shipping will only be guaranteed if further regulation continues to be led by IMO.

ICS notes that, as a result of the Paris Agreement, developing nations such as China and India have accepted responsibility to curb their emissions alongside developed economies, however, the agreement retains the principle of "differentiation" that allows different parties to offer different levels of commitment to reducing CO2.

"CO2 is a global problem and shipping is a global industry" said Peter Hinchliffe. "IMO is the only forum which can take account of the UN principle of 'differentiation' while requiring all ships to apply the same CO2 reduction measures, regardless of their flag state. Unilateral or regional regulation would be disastrous for shipping and disastrous for global CO2 reduction, whereas IMO is already helping shipping to deliver substantial CO2 reductions on a global basis."

ICS says that the complexity and scale of the Paris Agreement means that many of those involved may be disappointed by certain aspects, including the absence of explicit text referring to international shipping. At the start of the negotiation, ICS had hoped there might have been an acknowledgment of the importance of IMO continuing to develop further CO2 reduction measures, applicable to all internationally trading ships, and implemented and enforced in a uniform and global manner.

"Time finally ran out to agree a compromise on international transport acceptable to all nations, but nothing is really lost. No text is probably preferable to some of the well intentioned words being proposed at the very end of the conference which few people understood and which could have actually greatly complicated further progress at IMO" said Mr. Hinchliffe. "The Member States at IMO are the same nations that were present in Paris, but with officials that have a deep level of maritime expertise. Intensive work at IMO will continue with the global shipping industry's full support."

The European Community Shipowners Association also welcomed the agreement.

"Following the adoption in 2011 of measures to increase the energy efficiency of the industry, the agreed next step is a global data collection system of CO2 emissions", said Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of ECSA, "The governments in IMO will resume discussions on such a system in April next year, with the aim of ascertaining the real contribution of international shipping to global CO2 emissions. We strongly encourage all parties to ensure that these discussions lead to the establishment, as soon as possible, of a mandatory data collection system."

Once the data collection system is in place, the IMO will be able to decide on steps ahead.

"Together with our partners in the International Chamber of Shipping, we are ready to positively contribute to this process" said Mr. Verhoeven. "We hope that the European Parliament as well as civil society will join us in supporting Member States and the Commission to seek a global partnership in the IMO, as no regional solution could ever guarantee global emission reductions nor a global level playing field for shipping. The EU has adopted regulation that is meant to facilitate and precipitate a global solution for CO2 emissions from ships. It is now time to translate these commitments into a global agreement."

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