International Maritime Organization Agrees on Climate Change strategy for Shipping Industry

Last week, the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is a body of the UN, met in London to discuss ways in which the shipping industry could respond to climate change. The IMO deals with safety, security, and environmental performance in the international shipping industry. According to the IMO, international shipping is responsible the transportation of 80% of global trade. The IMO currently includes 173 Member States, 3 Associate Members, and NGOs with consultative status. The meeting last week was attended by over 100 of the Member States.

The group agreed on an initial strategy with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships and eventually phasing them out entirely. The agreement lays out three levels of ambition. The first level is to decrease carbon intensity of ships by implementing the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) for any new ships. The second level seeks a decline in carbon dioxide intensity across international shipping 40% by 2030 and pursuing 70% by 2050; such decreases would be in comparison to the levels seen in 2008. Finally, the agreement seeks to have greenhouse gas emissions peak as soon as possible and then reduce annual emissions by at least 50% by the year 2050 when compared with 2008 levels. Furthermore, this final level looks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions.

This agreement is significant since the shipping industry was not included in the Paris Climate Accord. This is despite the fact that shipping tends to burn heavy fuel, which although cheap, happens to be one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in use. However, not all nations were pleased with the agreement. The U.S., Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia all objected to the agreement. Many of the smaller island nations being threatened by rising seas, like the Marshall Islands, wanted to have Paris Agreement level reductions at a bare minimum and were looking for earlier zero emissions goals. Other countries voiced concerns over the impact of these goals on the lucrative global trade industry.

Further Reading:

Anna Hirtenstein et al., Nations Strike Deal to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy and Climate Report, Apr. 13, 2018.

John H. Cushman, Jr., World Agrees to Cut Shipping Emissions 50 Percent by 2050, Inside Climate News, Apr. 13, 2018.

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