IMO member states move nearer to adopting a carbon levy

Last week’s Intersessional Working Group (ISWG) on Greenhouse Gases (GHG) ISWG-GHG ahead of June’s gathering of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) showed genuine progress on pricing greenhouse gas emissions.

Delegates moved forward with a basket of measures that contains both technical – a fuel standard – and market-based measures such as a carbon levy. Delegates from the UK, New Zealand and the Bahamas spoke for the first time in favour of a carbon pricing measure at the IMO. The meeting concluded that there was now consensus to price GHG emissions at IMO. This is a major development – the concept of market-based measures has been on the table at IMO for more than a decade and often debated with large disagreements between member states.

There was also general support for any of these future measures to be set on a well-to-wake basis.

Aoife O’Leary, from the NGO Opportunity Green, commented: “It has been a long time coming, but there can finally be no doubt the IMO will put a carbon price on international shipping. But with our window of opportunity to act on climate change closing fast, as shown by the latest IPCC report, countries must move to June’s MEPC 78 negotiations with a sense of ambition, equity and urgency. Any carbon price agreed at the IMO must be high enough to transition the sector to zero-emission fuels in line with the Paris Agreement, while providing crucial support to developing, climate-vulnerable countries.”

Last week also saw the European Parliament press ahead with its own plans to include shipping within the bloc’s emission trading scheme.

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. In July 2009 at MEPC 59 considered MBMs for international shipping. The Committee considered a large number of views and contributions on the subject, and agreed by overwhelming majority that a MBM was needed as part of a comprehensive package of measures for the regulation of GHG emissions from international shipping. The Committee agreed that any regulatory scheme on GHG emissions applied to international shipping should be developed and enacted by the Organization as the most competent relevant international body. Plus ca change?
    It is a shame that the industry proposal to support R&D now appears to have got lost in the debate about MBMs but you never know some more Member States may begin to realise that it is an opportunity to implement a ‘levy’ now, albeit at a very low level, rather than later this decade, if at all!?

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