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IMO concludes draft carbon deal, in face of green lobby objections

Delegates at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) intersessional meeting have agreed draft measures on cutting the carbon intensity from existing ships, amid some acrimony over the discussions as the environmental lobby pressure shipping to do more.

The latest proposals are expected to be agreed at the next Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 75 set for 16-20 November, but some environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have said that the proposals do not go far enough, while industry figures believe that industry must take an ordered approach to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction.

According to an IMO statement, there are two new measures in the latest proposals from the intersessional working group, a technical requirement to reduce carbon intensity, based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI); and the operational carbon intensity reduction requirements, based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator (CII).

“The dual approach aims to address both technical (how the ship is retrofitted and equipped) and operational measures (how the ship operates),” said the IMO statement.

However, environmental groups believe that the draft amendment does not go far enough. European NGO, Transport & Environment (T&E) believes this agreement has seen countries “actively work to undermine the Initial Strategy goals of the International Maritime Organization”.

In undermining the IMO’s own GHG strategy the group believes that those nations have broken their Paris Agreement commitment to reduce emissions sufficiently for industry to meet its obligations to help maintain global warming at 1.5/2degs Centigrade.

T&E’s shipping programme director Faig Abbasov, said, “Governments have ridden roughshod over the Paris Agreement by agreeing a measure that will see ship emissions grow for decades to come. The UN maritime agency again showed the world it can only deliver cosmetic changes. EU countries should work through the European Green Deal to fill the gap left by the IMO.”

John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, which has observer status at the IMO, added, “We urge all countries to reconsider their support for the J/5 decision ahead of MEPC75 this November 16-20, and reject it, unless it can be fundamentally strengthened.”

Shipping industry believes green lobby does not understand the complexity of meeting emissions targets.

An industry official, however, was critical of the environmental lobby criticising them for not understanding the complexity of the issues at hand. According to the official, there is a good deal of detailed technical work that now needs to be understood and completed and that without this work there could well be “unintended consequences.”

“All countries are trying to get things to work, they are all making sure that due process is followed, we can’t throw procedures out of the window,” added the official.

There is a concern on the industry side of the debate that if the environmental lobby is successful there could be a “catastrophic shortage of tonnage by 2023, people could be starving if shipping and the supply chain are disrupted,” she said.

Industry, in the official’s view, must adapt as climate changes take place and try to mitigate the effects of change, there should be a “semi-gradual process,” that leads to adaptation and resilience in the changes and the supply chains, that are “measurable and enforceable, in a way that the Paris Agreement isn’t.”

Already the shipping industry is signing up to targets knowing that the means to meet those targets do not exist.

John Butler, CEO of the World Shipping Council, a carrier representative organisation, stated, “Whilst it is easy to criticise the outcome of the intercessional, it is worth remembering that anything short of a global solution represents long-term failure on climate change. We need to stick with this hard work, but the task is urgent, and we must move further, faster. As long as our only fuel options are carbon based, GHG reductions will be limited. Efficiency is important, but it will not solve the problem.”

Radical reductions in GHG emissions will only come through the implementation of a surcharge on carbon fuel that will develop a US$5 billion R&D fund over the next 10 years. A move that has been criticised by some prominent industry observers as too little too late.

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