IMO’s First Steps to Reduce Shipping Emissions Not Perfect, But Positive

IMO greenhouse gas emissions
Photo: By Eric Gevaert / Shutterstock

By Alexander Whiteman (The Loadstar) – The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) adoption of an initial strategy to address shipping emissions is “a step in the right direction”, but there is more that can be done, according to the industry.

Many are urging more effort to deal with emissions which some have suggested are on a par with the whole of Germany.

Chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping Guy Platten hailed the IMO’s decision to cut 2008 levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by at least 50% by 2050.

“Crucially, this should be seen as a stepping stone towards decarbonisation in the long term – something which must continue to be a major focus in the years ahead,” he said.

“Shipping moves 90% of global trade and people understand the link between trade and prosperity, but they demand we do it in a sustainable and responsible way. Climate change is real, and we have a responsibility to play our part in preventing further damage to the environment.”

Of particular note in the IMO strategy is specific reference to “a pathway” of reducing CO2 emissions in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goals. It also marks the first time the UN body has identified “levels of ambition” consistent with reducing GHGs in international shipping.

At last week’s MEPC 72 meeting, IMO secretary general Kitack Lim said the move was “another successful illustration of the renowned IMO spirit of cooperation”.

“I encourage you to continue your work through the newly adopted Initial GHG Strategy which is designed as a platform for future actions,” said Mr Lim. “I am confident in relying on your ability to relentlessly continue your efforts and develop further actions that will soon contribute to reducing GHG emissions from ships.”

Head of the Liberia delegation at MEPC Isaac Jackson told The Loadstar Liberia could “fully support” the initial draft strategy.

“This achievement, while not perfect, sends a positive message to the world that shipping is united in reducing GHG emissions,” said Mr Jackson. “The IMO has taken a giant step that is very significant in reducing GHG emission in the context of the Paris Agreement.”

However, response from the world’s second largest shipping registry, the Marshall Islands, was less emphatic. President Hilda Heine said: “The IMO has made history, and while it may not give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes clear international shipping will now urgently reduce emissions.

“This helps make every country safer, but even a landmark cap and clear targets to reduce GHGs consistent with Paris, we need to improve over time in line with the latest science.”

Global director of corporates and supply chain at Carbon Disclosure Project, Dexter Galvin, said while the progress was “good to see” the pledged 50% reduction did not go far enough.

“However, this does not stop individual companies taking the lead and getting ahead of tougher targets which are likely to be set in the years to come,” said Mr Galvin. “The customers of shipping companies are increasingly demanding action and transparency from their suppliers.

“By setting ambitious goals to reduce and report emissions to their customers, shipping companies can ensure they are resilient and seize a competitive advantage in the future.”

The IMO has agreed to hold a fourth inter-sessional meeting of its working group on reducing GHGs later in the year. It will develop follow-up actions to the initial strategy and consider how to further reduce shipping’s GHGs and report its findings to MEPC 73 in October.

The Loadstar is fast becoming known at the highest levels of logistics and supply chain management as one of the best sources of influential analysis and commentary.

Check them out at TheLoadstar.co.uk, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.