Mixed bag at MEPC71

The UN’s shipping body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has settled on the main elements of an interim strategy aiming to decarbonise the sector.

Over 170 countries meeting at the International Maritime Organisation in London had some substantive discussion on objectives and ways to decarbonise shipping, resulting in a seven-step outline that now needs to be developed into an interim plan due in 2018.

One proposal calling for the shipping sector to adopt climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement and decarbonise by the second half of the century gained overwhelming expressions of support but failed to reach a consensus.

The Bahamas delegation has put forward a possible vision for shipping to adopt, which states: “The IMO is committed to the decarbonization of international shipping by the second half of the century.” While this statement was widely accepted notable detractors in the form of Brazil and Saudi Arabia fought the motion.

The meeting saw China and India voice strong support for alternative low carbon fuels, and a coalition of Pacific and European nations highlight the urgency of taking in-sector action. A number of countries with long lines of communication – among them Brazil and Chile – voiced concerns about potentially negative impacts of reduction measures.

Among other key news from MEPC last week was the decision to delay the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention by two years.

Mike Halferty, Marshall Islands minister for transport & communications, commented on the week’s discussions: “We have made modest progress in IMO in the last two weeks towards agreeing, in 2018, an initial strategy for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from the international shipping sector. In particular the outline for a draft initial strategy has been set out. And we have agreed that the text of the initial strategy should be developed when we meet again in October.

Bill Hemmings, director of shipping and aviation at NGO Transport & Environment, said: “Political differences over differentiation and potential costs of measures prevented substantive progress despite the very welcome presence of a strong delegation of Pacific Island nations so vulnerable to climate change calling for an ambitious reduction target and urgent measures. A sense of urgency was lacking and hopes have again been deferred to the next meeting being held in October nearly two years after the Paris Agreement.”

The next round of IMO climate talks takes place in London this October.

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.
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