IMO pledges to continue work on GHG emissions

IMO notes that, to date, it is the only organization to have adopted energy-efficiency measures that are legally binding across an entire global industry and apply to all countries. Mandatory energy efficiency standards for new ships, and mandatory operational measures to reduce emissions from existing ships, entered into force under an existing international convention (MARPOL Annex VI) in 2013. By 2025, all new ships will be 30% more energy efficient than those built last year.

“This is more than a target, it is a legal requirement, and demonstrates that IMO is the correct and only forum to identify solutions and an appropriate pathway for international shipping to de-carbonize with the rest of the globe,” says IMO.

Continuing efforts will include:

  • development of a global data collection system for ship’s fuel consumption to be discussed in detail at the next meeting of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in 2016,
  • further consideration of a total-sector reduction target for GHG emissions from international shipping as proposed by the Marshall Islands in 2015, and
  • continued investigation of additional mechanisms for ships to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

During COP21, IMO provided an update of its work to address GHG emissions from bunker fuels used for international shipping.

Specifically, IMO reported on its work on guidelines to support the uniform implementation of the regulations on energy-efficiency for ships; and on its efforts with regard to technical co-operation and capacity-building to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the new regulations worldwide and, activities to support  technical cooperation and transfer of technology for improving the energy efficiency of ships.

With what is now “a clear imperative for IMO’s Member States to rise to the challenge set by the Paris Agreement,” Secretary-General Sekimizu says, “I now encourage Governments to bring the spirit of the Paris Agreement to IMO and come forward with new, creative proposals and to approach them in a constructive and cooperative manner.”

Mr. Sekimizu says that the challenge set by the Paris Agreement also extends to ship designers and marine engineers to develop the technological solutions, to those who operate and manage ships, to seafarers and those who educate them and, importantly, to the business of shipping, which needs to ensure that investment in innovative low carbon technologies is properly incentivised.


Shipping not in COP21 agreement: Now what?

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.”

Euro MPs want to fast track setting of shipping GHG target


Specifically, the resolution “calls for all the Parties to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop a global policy framework to enable an effective response, and to take measures to set adequate targets before the end of 2016 for achieving the necessary reductions in the light of the 2 °C target [for a limit on global warming].”

The resolution has drawn a very guarded response from European shipowners.

“We are happy to see that the European Parliament recognizes the importance of a global solution for international shipping and gives a vote of confidence to the IMO, which should be allowed to pursue its efforts,” said Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of ECSA, the European Community Shipowners Association. “We are however also concerned by the deadline adopted by MEPs on Wednesday. 2016 is right around the corner and as such it is rather unrealistic to expect the IMO to come up with a solution in a matter of months. A unilateral European push for a hard deadline may be counterproductive.”

ECSA calls IMO’s track record in developing technical CO2 energy efficiency measures for the maritime sector “impressive.”

Following the adoption of the amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, which came into force worldwide in 2011 and which now apply to about 95% of the global merchant fleet, international shipping is the only industrial sector already covered by mandatory and binding global measures, notes ECSA. IMO also recently adopted the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which requires all ships constructed after 2025 to be 30% more efficient that those built in the 2000s, with further efficiency improvements going forward. Finally, the shipping industry itself, prompted by an increase in bunker prices, has made strides in increasing its energy efficiency and curbing its CO2 emissions.

As a result of recent efforts, the contribution of shipping to global CO2 emissions has in fact dropped, says ECSA.

According to the latest IMO Green House Gas study, published in 2014, international shipping (while transporting about 90% of world trade) produces about 2.2% of the world’s total CO2 emissions. This figure was 2.8% in 2007, and the total CO2 emissions from shipping went down by over 10% between 2007 and 2012. This was despite continuing growth in maritime trade which means that shipping is already delivering carbon neutral growth.

“The 2016 deadline is not consistent with the steps already taken at EU level” commented Benoit Loicq, ECSA Safety and Environment Director. “By pushing for an extremely tight deadline, the EU would essentially undermine the IMO procedure. If the EU would then focus on regional measures, it would be backtracking on its own policy.”

ECSA says the EU Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) Regulation is intended to be the first phase of a stepwise approach geared towards a global (read IMO) solution by allowing to determine the real contribution of shipping to global CO2 emissions.

“The course of action that has been agreed is to start with an accurate picture of the shipping industry’s CO2 emissions in 2018 (i.e. two years after the MEP-backed deadline),” says Mr. Loicq. “If we now backtrack and skip the data collection phase altogether, how would it be possible to set realistic and fair targets?”