The global shipping industry has taken a crucial step in addressing climate change. More than 170 countries under the aegis of the International Maritime Organisation, a specialised intergovernmental body under the United Nation for regulating shipping, have committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050. There was limited opposition to the deal with Saudi Arabia and the United States expressing reservations.
This landmark agreement, referred to as an initial strategy, is the first step towards formalising a climate action plan by 2023. The first ever concrete step taken by the industry to tackle climate change is a compromise. The Marshall Islands, which is among the top flag states, and European Union had proposed a 70% reduction in GHG emissions, while countries such as Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, and United States had opposed absolute emission targets, preferring to focus on reducing the carbon ..
Addressing the plenary, IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim stressed that, though the agreement may not be perfect, it sent a clear signal to the shipping industry. “The text may not be satisfactory to all but it represents a strong middle ground… in this context I believe this compromise text is a solution that should be able to keep everyone on board…. it sends a strong signal to industry and you as member states are tackling this with the same commitment you have given to the Paris Agreement.”
Experts say that the compromise is not in keeping with the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celcius. But the IMO Secretary General stressed that the agreement was only an initial strategy, a “starting point”, with the final roadmap to be finalised by 2023.
“While it may not be enough to give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes it clear that international shipping will now urgently reduce emissions and play its part in giving my country a pathway to survival,” said President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Hilda C. Heine.
The agreement also reflects issues flagged by developing countries such as India and Brazil. Their concern was that a target to reduce emissions would have adverse economic impacts on developing countries. The initial strategy clearly includes reference to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities . It also guarantees that the impact of any potential efforts to decarbonise the sector on developing countries will be taken into considered while adopting ..
Expectations are that over the next few years this target will be tightened and brought closer in line with the Paris Agreement commitments. But even at this level of reduction, meeting the target will require major changes from the shipping industry. “It will require rapid technological changes to produce zero-emission ships, moving from fossil fuels, to a combination of electricity (batteries), renewable fuels derived from hydrogen, and potentially bioenergy,” said Tristan Smith, an expert on ..
Experts say that it sends a strong signal to the shipping industry and fuel suppliers. "It makes clear that the shipping industry and fuel supplier need to scale up investments in new technologies and their rapid deployment, including alternative fuels and propulsion systems,” said Mark Lutes, senior global climate policy advisor, WWF.