New hopes for climate change mitigation in international shipping?

On Monday (03.12.), the first day of COP24, the side event “Achieving the IMO GHG Reduction objectives: fossil fuels, climate change and economic development” shed light on the new Initial Strategy of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to reduce CO2 emissions. The session included a panel with speakers from IMO, the industry and academia.

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To date, over 80% of worldwide goods are traded via shipping. Emissions of the shipping sector contributed with 2.2% to global greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 (Smith et al., 2015), whereas about 80% result from international activities. This share of emissions is expected to grow as demand for shipping will likely continue to increase in future due to increasing globalisation and economic development.

In spring 2018, the IMO adopted an Initial Strategy on the reduction of GHGs (MEPC, 2018). The strategy entails different levels of ambition. Firstly, emissions should peak as soon as possible and total GHG emissions should be reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while pursuing efforts to phasing them out entirely. The phase-out should happen as soon as possible this century in line with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Secondly, average carbon intensity (CO2 per transport work) should be reduced by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050 compared to 2008. The Initial Strategy is in the context of the approval of a roadmap (2017-2023) for developing a “comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships” (IMO, 2018, p.18). The adoption of a Revised IMO Strategy is planned for 2023 (IMO, 2018).

While the roadmap roughly outlines what could be done, the side event at COP was not only about presenting the Initial Strategy but also about what concrete measures could be adopted to reduce emissions from ships.

According to Edmund Hughes, one of the panellist working for IMO, the Strategy was a “major step forward” but that alternative fuels (biofuels, synthetic fuels like ammonia and hydrogen) and technological innovation is necessary to achieve the goals of the initial IMO strategy. A delegate from Japan highlighted the problems for decarbonizing the sector but also gave interesting examples of operational and technical measures to be applied in the short- and mid-term. In the final presentation of Dr. Tristan Smith from the University College London, it became clear that also in the shipping sector the disparities between developed and developing countries are present and need to be considered, especially when market-based measures and carbon pricing are discussed.


Sources:

IMO (2018). ADOPTION OF THE INITIAL IMO STRATEGY ON REDUCTION OF GHG EMISSIONS FROM SHIPS AND EXISTING IMO ACTIVITY RELATED TO REDUCING GHG EMISSIONS IN THE SHIPPING SECTOR. Note by the International Maritime Organization to the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue.

MEPC. (2018). INITIAL IMO STRATEGY ON REDUCTION OF GHG EMISSIONS FROM SHIPS. MEPC72, Resolution MEPC 72/17/Add.1 483, Published 13.04.2018. Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).Available: http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Environment/PollutionPrevention/AirPollution/Documents/Resolution%20MEPC.304(72)_E.pdf

SMITH, T., JALKANEN, J., ANDERSON, B., CORBETT, J., FABER, J., HANAYAMA, S., O'KEEFFE, E., PARKER, S., JOHANASSON, L. & ALDOUS, L. (2015). Third IMO GHG Study 2014. London: International Maritime Organization.