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Delegates Told to Be ‘Ambitious and Bold’ Ahead of IMO’s Critical MEPC 80 Meeting

Photo: International Maritime Organization

Delegates Told to Be ‘Ambitious and Bold’ Ahead of IMO’s Critical MEPC 80 Meeting

Barry Parker
Total Views: 1172
June 26, 2023

By Barry Parker (gCaptain) –

With the all-important MEPC 80 meeting now a week away, the preparatory work at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is now in its final stages.

The Secretary General of the IMO, Kitack Lim, told the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 15, which began a week-long meeting doing prep-work on revision of the IMO’s Greenhouse Gas Strategy, to “be ambitious and bold.”

Even though the plenary sessions of the MEPC (Marine Environmental Protection Committee), such as MEPC 80, receive a great deal of attention, much of the technical work and development of proposals is done behind the scenes, in between meetings by the working group of maritime experts chaired by Sveinung Oftedal, who has a “day job” in the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment.

Another group, described as the “Ad-hoc expert workshop on candidate mid-term GHG reduction measures”, had met in late May with 380 participants. This meeting provided a further background on the issues to be dealt with at MEPC 80, and, importantly, also included a liaison with UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which deals with the broader economic and geopolitical landscape. For example, UNCTAD had played a crucial role in the Summer 2022 negotiation of the deal that enabled grain exports out of Ukraine.

This week, according to the IMO, the ISWG-15 participants will be considering two main themes. First, “the finalization of the draft 2023 IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships”. And second, “the further assessment and selection of measures, both technical and economic elements”.

The overall strategy will likely see a revision from the IMO’s 2018 “Initial Strategy”, which targeted a 50% reduction in maritime greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (compared with 2008). Potentially, the MEPC delegates could agree next week on a “Revised Strategy”, with a goal of 100% reduction by 2050, but this is by no means a certainty. The technical and economic elements (the standards for fuels, and mechanisms for funding the move to new fueling alternatives) are the nuts and bolts of how to get to the new levels of ambition that might be agreed.

According to the IMO, “It is anticipated that a working group will be established, during MEPC 80, to finalize the draft strategy, following plenary statements.” This follows the pattern of previous meetings where positions of the 170+ members are voiced in the main meeting (the “plenary” gathering), and then a working group meets afterwards, sometimes late into the nights (UK time) to hammer out specifics, and then reports back to the assemblage on the last day of the MEPC meeting.

Still, with the widely anticipated MEPC 80 confab just one week out, it remains to be seen how bold the MEPC delegates will actually be on moving the maritime decarbonization goalposts.

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