Lobby groups come under pressure to ditch ‘moonshot’ R&D proposal in favour of $100 per tonne carbon levy

The shipping industry’s leading global lobby group, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), last week ended its years-long opposition to carbon pricing. Now a host of NGOs are demanding the ICS and other shipping bodies ditch their $5bn R&D decarbonisation proposals and instead back the $100 per tonne carbon levy, submitted to the International Maritime Organization earlier this year by the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands.

In an open letter penned by the Environmental Defense Fund, Transport & Environment, Pacific Environment, Carbon Market Watch and WWF International, the NGOs welcomed the lobby groups’ change of stance, announced as the US made a big about turn on shipping and the environment calling for the industry to be zero emissions by 2050.

“It is imperative now that ICS and other sponsors should withdraw their International Maritime Research and Development Board proposal to allow time for discussion on carbon pricing, and support the far more serious and ambitious proposal for a $100/mt carbon price already on the table,” the letter from the NGOs states, going on to describe the shipping lobby group’s R&D proposal, which calls for $2 per tonne levy as too meagre and a distraction.

“The proposal would take up most available bandwidth for discussion at IMO over the next few years – when, as ICS now agrees, we should urgently be designing and implementing a carbon pricing system, as well as developing new measures to urgently cut shipping’s climate impact in the short-term,” the letter states.

Writing for Splash today, Jimmy Nuake, deputy secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development of the Solomon Islands, noted: “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.”

The R&D fund proposed by ICS and other shipping bodies has come under a barrage of attacks in recent weeks. Splash’s chief opinion writer, Andrew Craig-Bennett condemned what its proponents describe as a “moonshot” as no more than “clod dropped into a puddle”. Other commentators described it as no more than “a chip shot from the tee on a par five hole”.

“This proposal is simply not well enough thought out to have any meaningful benefit,” commented the chief opinion writer of sister title Splash Extra in a new column out today.

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. Better than the Fund, but why not just increase the fuel price with a charge/tax. Then it will be no discussion on how much carbon is created

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