EU will take action on shipping emissions if IMO fails this week

European politicians have let it be known they will take their own course of action regarding shipping emissions if member states of the International Maritime Organization attending this week’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) fail to agree on a substantive and swift cut.

In an open letter from the members of the European Parliament’s delegation to the IMO, the signatories warned: “It is essential that shipping decarbonise and be subject to climate regulation; preferably by the IMO but otherwise through other means.”

The European Union has repeatedly warned the IMO must deliver a substantial package of emission cuts at this week’s MEPC or face the threat of regional regulation.

“We don’t want to do things if IMO is taking responsible action, but we are willing to go further if necessary,” said Jytte Guteland, a Swedish member of the European parliament (MEP), at a press briefing in London yesterday.

“The EU is willing to take concrete steps. We don’t wish it; we want to have global action. But from the meetings we’ve had until now, there are high ambition countries, and lower ambition countries. Our red line is the Paris Agreement,” Dubravka Suica, a Croat MEP, said at the same briefing.

Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP, said that what he had seen during the first two days at MEPC had disappointed him.

“What is on the table is the bare minimum, and it’s not good enough. The target is insufficient, and there are no short-term actions at all,” Eickhout said, adding the credibility of the IMO was now at stake.

The intersessional working group that met last week at IMO’s headquarters has produced a draft text that calls for a 50% emissions cut by 2050.

However, the EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and transport commissioner Violeta Bulc have written to ministers of IMO member states asking them to support a tougher target of 70 to 100%, a position strongly endorsed by an array of Pacific island states.

The IMO said today the discussion of the report of the working group on GHG will be on Friday, with the time yet to be confirmed. Debate is likely to carry on late into the night on Friday.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Mr Eickhout sums it up: the credibility of the IMO is now at stake.

    Like some other backwaters of the UN, the IMO has pottered along and we, in the industry that it has claimed to regulate, have quietly turned a blind eye to conduct and to practices that we would reprobate in other spheres.

    IMO officials have “parachuted” into comfortable private sector posts, and special interest groups have grown accustomed to improper influence.

    This isn’t going to work, now. This subject is much too important.

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