Islands and industry say it’s time for a carbon tax. Can Kerry help deliver it?

Jimmy Nuake, deputy secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development of the Solomon Islands, writes for Splash today demanding more strict 2050 targets for shipping.

Last week, John Kerry announced that the US is backing the drive for a zero emissions shipping industry by 2050. If we are to have any chance of meeting this net zero target, governments around the world need to enable the shipping industry to go green by giving it a real incentive to transform.

Shipping bodies agree that it’s time for us to have this discussion. Energy is growing within the shipping industry to clean up their business – but until we governments give them the incentives to do so, those that do right by the climate are still taking a real risk.

This is why we came together with the Marshall Islands to propose a carbon levy at the International Maritime Organization. This carbon levy proposal would make it logical for shipowners to invest in measures to green their ships – making it not only the right thing to do morally, but also financially. Our proposed levy would start at $100 per ton of CO2, and would be periodically revised upwards, which would encourage technological innovation and enable the kind of risk-taking that can create the step-changes we need in this industry.

The revenue generated from the levy could also help countries like mine on the frontlines of the climate crisis adapt and survive climate change – which the global shipping industry has been a major contributor to for decades.

We must remember that commitments have been made before. In 2018, Member States at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to cut GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. At that time, our Pacific states considered the goal to be the bare minimum, but in the face of stiff political opposition, it was the best we could get.

The science tells us that 50% by 2050 is woefully inadequate. Emissions from maritime shipping rose about 10% from 2012 to 2018. And over the same period, demand for shipping grew twice as quickly as fuel efficiency improved. The Fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas Study projects that business-as-usual GHG emissions from shipping to increase by up to 50% above 2018 levels by 2050.

We cannot afford any further delay. As a country that has led the fight for decarbonizing shipping for many years, it’s heartening to hear Kerry’s pledge and see that the UK has promised to include shipping in its emissions reductions commitments. I hope to see the US and UK – and all other countries committed to keeping global warming within the 1.5C temperature limit set out in the Paris Agreement – join us. The IMO has our proposal on the agenda for the next meeting in June this year, and could decide to promote it, if there is the will to do so. Setting a price on carbon would set the maritime shipping industry on a long-term trajectory to rein in emissions, and preserve our future.


  1. Tagio tumas Solomon Islands – outstanding leadership from one of the most vulnerable MS, lets see if US has the courage to walk its new talk.

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