The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has revised its strategy to reduce CO2 emission from shipping lines. The remarkable outcome of the decision is that everyone seems to be happy with the new targets to tackle harmful emissions: Forwarding agents, shippers, and shipping companies alike.
So is Hapag-Lloyd’s Wolfram Guntemann, Director Regulatory Affairs Fleet of the Hamburg-based box carrier. Asked by CargoForwarder Global to comment on the new rules that will likely be costly
for his company and its peers, he stated:
“As a matter of fact, we are very pleased about this decision by the IMO. This has sent a very important signal for more speed in the implementation of measures that contribute to the further decarbonization of supply chains. Hapag-Lloyd had committed, in 2021, to being climate neutral by 2045, with the publication of its enhanced sustainability strategy. Climate change is a key issue that affects us all. In this respect, it is also only important and right that the IMO member states worldwide have agreed on a more ambitious timetable.”
Industry groups welcomed the deal. In a statement, Simon Bennett, Deputy Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said: “This week’s agreement is historic for our industry and sends a very strong message that the maritime sector is serious about achieving net zero and addressing dangerous climate change in line with the Paris Agreement.”
Ocean shipping surpasses the carbon emissions of aviation
According to data published by YCC, (© 2003 Yale Climate Connections), maritime shipping accounts for 3% of Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, causing more carbon emissions than airlines. Too much, claims IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). Consequently, its specialists have drawn up new rules, which have now been adopted by the entire organization.
In addition to many individual measures, the decisive aspect of the current consent is that on top of the overarching goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, binding intermediate stages have been implemented and decided. These include an uptake of alternative zero and near-zero greenhouse gas fuels by 2030, as well as indicative checkpoints for 2030 and 2040.
Setting intermediate goals
Hence, the pressure is on the industry. Because there are only 6.5 years to go until 2030, by which time the first interim target formulated by the IMO should be reached. By then, international shipping must have reduced its total annual GHG emissions by at least 20% compared to 2008, but is striving more ambitiously for 30%, according to IMO’s resolution. Ten years later, in 2040, CO2 emissions from international shipping must have decreased by at least 70%, striving for 80%, compared to the benchmark year 2008.
A wishy-washy compromise?
Climate activists and environmental experts who had called for more ambitious targets, criticized the agreement. Faïg Abbasov, from the non-profit organization Transport & Environment, said that IMO’s climate pledge agreement was a missed opportunity. “This week’s climate talks were reminiscent of rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship. The IMO had the opportunity to set an unambiguous and clear course towards the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature goal, but all it came up with is a wishy-washy compromise,” he said in a statement to CNN. Likewise, John Maggs, President of the Clean Shipping Coalition, criticized the “vague and non-committal language” in the new climate strategy. “There is no excuse for this wish and a prayer agreement. They knew what the science required, and that a 50% cut in emissions by 2030 was both possible and affordable,” he said in a comment.
Circumvention of the new rules cannot be excluded
Understandable reactions since IMO leaves loopholes for shipowners. By flagging out their vessels to less developed countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Panama, Barbados, Sri Lanka, but also Gibraltar, Malta, or Cyprus in the EU, they may delay the adoption of the IMO demands. These countries are allowed to demand less stringent environmental standards compared to industrialized nations. Hence, they could lure vessels operating under the flag of industrialized countries to their national maritime registers. This is indirectly permitted by IMO, which states in its resolution that “developing countries, in particular LDCs [Least Developed Countries] and SIDS [Small Island Developing States], have special needs with regard to capacity-building and technical cooperation,” and that these must be considered. A potential dilemma that was indirectly also pointed out by IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim: “Above all, it is particularly meaningful to have unanimous support from all Member States. In this regard, I believe that we have to pay more attention to assisting developing countries, in particular SIDS and LDCs, so that no one is left behind.”
Effective controls are of paramount importance
In its resolution, IMO assures that it is also accelerating its efforts in developing the necessary safety regulatory framework allowing the safe handling of future marine fuels on board ships. Concurrently, its MEPC steering group will focus on the adoption of the revised IMO GHG strategy, on improvement of the environmental efficiency of vessels, biofuel and ballast water management, reducing underwater noise emissions according to revised guidelines, and tackling the fast-spreading pollution of oceans caused by marine litter.
“Both goals and measures are forward-looking, but they need effective implementation and oversight by IMO member state authorities under IMO's overall supervision,” commented the spokesman for a global shipping company in view of his company's expectations.
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