IMO approves emissions proposals at MEPC 75

The International Maritime Organization on Tuesday November 17th approved measures that it said would improve energy efficiency in vessels and contribute to efforts to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

However, several countries, while supporting the proposal, which was passed at the online Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 75, expressed concerns at the insipid nature of the proposal. They noted that it projected an image of a lack of ambition and determination.

Climate change organizations were less kind, unanimously condemning the proposal as weak to the point of being ineffective. They said that the resolution permitted the shipping sector’s share of emissions to keep rising over the next decade. They said that while this was happening, the 2015 Paris climate accord had agreed that greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) needed to be halved.

John Maggs of the Clean Shipping Coalition said of the IMO that “their complacency is breathtaking”.

The measures are in addition to already agreed energy efficiency regulations for new vessels. The aim is to reduce the carbon emissions of international shipping by 40% before 2030, when compared with 2008 levels.

Another IMO target, passed last year is to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 50% by 50%, from 2008 levels. That too has been criticized as a half-hearted measure with too long a timetable.

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim said at the MEPC 75 launch on Monday that it was “of utmost importance that the IMO continues to deliver on the implementation of the initial GHG strategy by means of concrete measures”.

The amendments to MARPOL on short-term measures on the carbon intensity of shipping will be put forward for adoption at MEPC 76, to be held in June 2021.

The committee is also expected to discuss a proposal by industry organizations to establish a Maritime Research and Development Fund that would collect financing through a carbon levy, with the aim of facilitating more R&D on clean fuels and zero-carbon technologies.

As a result of the resolution, MARPOL legislation will see two new measures added: the technical requirement to reduce carbon intensity, based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) from 2023; and operational carbon intensity reduction requirements, based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator (CII), due to launch in 2026.

A joint press release from a number of environmental NGOs said on Tuesday that the measures adopted would not do anything to cap GHG emissions this decade, and that they were out of step with the Paris Climate Agreement goals.

Pacific Environment, WWF and the Clean Shipping Coalition said in the joint release that the measures would fail to cut emissions before 2023, will not peak emissions as soon as possible, and will not set shipping CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement goals.

Madeline Rose, climate campaign director at Pacific Environment, thought that the new rules would curb just 1% of shippings’ annual carbon emissions by 2030, which meant that emissions from the current global fleet would still rise by an estimated 14% before the end of the 2020s.

European Parliament member Bas Eickhout said that the EU would include shipping in the Emissions Trading Scheme. “We can’t waste another five years waiting for the IMO.”

IMOclimate (a global network of analysts tracking progress on a UN climate deal for the shipping industry that is not affiliated to the IMO.) tweeted that “delegates are congratulating themselves on designing a policy that shaves 1% off shipping industry’s giant 1 billion tonnes annual CO2 output – in a decade’s time”. It said that this was a “complete denial of what scientists say is necessary”.

Although Norway and Japan said that they “fully supported” the resolution, and Greece, France and Germany also voted in favour without comment, some countries seemed more aware of the climatic implications.

Canada said that it was “disappointed in the level of ambition. This measure does not put us on a clear path to achieve the goals of the Initial IMO strategy, or the Paris Agreement.” However, it said that it was “of the view that we must accept this measure as a first step, but only a first step.”

The Netherlands also supported the resolution but added the caveat: “we had hoped for more. More is needed to deliver on the goals of the Initial IMO Strategy.”

Ireland, while also supporting the amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, said that it was disappointed at the lack of ambition in the proposal. It said that it lamented “the loss of a constructive enforcement mechanism from the initial proposal”.

The Clean Arctic Alliance described the ‘J/5.rev1’ as extremely weak adding that at best it would shave 1.3% from the business-as-usual growth pathway of 15% by 2030.