Sian Prior: Progress on protecting the Arctic and reducing emissions from shipping
Last week, at the International Maritime Organization in London, Members agreed to an initial greenhouse gas strategy – the last sector to agree targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally. Shipping will now be expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050, and to phase them out as soon as possible this century. A report published last week by the OECD indicates that shipping could be decarbonised as early as 2035. For an overview of progress at last week’s meeting on shipping and environmental protection at the IMO, click here:
IMO Members also agreed the scope of work to mitigate the risks of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Arctic, which is expected to lead to a ban on its use and carriage as fuel, similar to a ban already in place in the Antarctic.
Guardian Carbon dioxide from ships at sea will be regulated for the first time following a historic agreement reached after two weeks of detailed talks in London. Shipping companies will halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the plan, brokered by the International Maritime Organization and binding across its 170 member states.
Economist: ‘Across the river from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) headquarters in London protesters have pressure-hosed “IMO DON’T SINK PARIS” into the muck lining the walls of the Thames. The river bank is not the only thing that is dirty. Shipping and airlines were the only greenhouse-gas-emitting industries not mentioned in the 2016 Paris climate agreement. This was, in part, because assigning emissions is hard. To whom should you designate emissions for shipping Chinese goods, made with South Korean components, across the Pacific to American consumers? But similar problems did not stop airlines quickly agreeing on an industry-wide limit. This week delegates to the IMO, a United Nations agency responsible for shipping safety and pollution, met in a belated attempt to catch up. A deal was due as The Economist went to press.
It may not be an impressive one. A preliminary agreement set out to achieve cuts of 50% on 2008 emission levels by 2050. Ambitious nations, like those in Europe, think the industry should be carbon-free by then. Shipping produces 3% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, similar to an economy the size of Germany’s, and that is likely to grow.
Lack of cleaner shipping technology is not a constraint. New design standards are already lowering harmful emissions. Zero-carbon fuels are becoming available. Slowing ships down by 10% could reduce fuel usage by almost a third.
Diplomats argue that the slow progress is because their actions affect not just the shipping industry, but exporters too. If regulators move too aggressively they may reduce the competitiveness of seaborne trade. For instance, Brazil, a big exporter of iron ore to China, fears overzealous caps could drive shipping costs higher, helping its competitor, Australia, whose ores travel a quarter as far as Brazil’s. The idea of slowing vessels down draws ire from countries that export perishable goods, like cherries and grapes, as Chile does.
Others argue that powerful lobbyists have hijacked the process. A report by InfluenceMap, a research firm, found that at a recent IMO meeting 31% of nations were represented, in part, by direct business interests. Thomas O’Neill, one of the firm’s researchers, is irked by the power of business at the IMO. “In Paris we did not have coal companies telling us what was possible.”