Shipowners Encourage EU-China Leadership in Shaping IMO CO2 Strategy

Photo: United Nations

The European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) have come together in support of the European Union and the People’s Republic of China’s intention to intensify cooperation in achieving a global climate deal for shipping following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Early indications of a climate change cooperation between the EU and China materialized during the 19th EU-China Summit held in Brussels last week. At the Summit, leaders from the two powers reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement, and also looked forward to co-hosting, along with Canada, a major ministerial gathering in September to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement and accelerate the clean energy transition.

“The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement should not jeopardise an ambitious global strategy to reduce the CO2 emissions of shipping”, said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “We are therefore pleased that the EU and China appear to be working towards reinforced co-operation on delivering a climate agreement for shipping at the International Maritime Organization.”

Although international shipping is not included in the Paris Agreement, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as shipping’s global regulator, has remained committed to reducing GHG emissions from the industry, which accounts for approximately 2.2% of global man-made (anthropogenic) CO2 emissions.

Discussions on the IMO greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategy will start later this month at the 71st session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). The IMO aims at establishing an initial strategy in 2018, which is to be finalized in 2023, after real-time data on CO2 emissions of global shipping have been collected and analyzed. Ahead of the MEPC meeting, the global shipping industry, represented by four international shipowner organizations, submitted a proposal to keep total global CO2 emissions below 2008 levels, and then progressively cutting annual total emissions from the sector by 2050, by a percentage to be agreed by IMO.

“We call upon the EU and China, and indeed all IMO Member States, to support the industry proposals”, said ICS Secretary General Peter Hinchliffe, “The priority of governments should be to focus on the development of alternative, fossil-free fuels and IMO should assess whether holding CO2 below 2008 levels can be achieved with technical and operational measures alone.”

What the ECSA and ICS don’t want is any regional regulations in an attempt to combat the problem of shipping emissions. The European Parliament is notably pushing for the unilateral inclusion of shipping in the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Chinese government is also considering a national ETS scheme, which could eventually include shipping.

“We remain firmly opposed to a patchwork of regional schemes that would distort international shipping markets while doing little to tackle the reduction of the global industry’s actual emissions”, concluded Patrick Verhoeven and Peter Hinchliffe, “Imposing regional solutions will be counterproductive. It will anger developing nations that have agreed to participate in the IMO process despite their concerns about the implications for their economic development, making the prospect of a global agreement on truly meaningful CO2 reductions far more difficult if not impossible.”