Pacific Islands attack ICS, make last ditch plea to IMO

With the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) set to conclude discussions tomorrow, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, Franҫois Martel, has launched a scathing attack on the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

The majority of nations from the South Pacific have found themselves at polar opposites to ICS this week in London in terms of how soon and by how much shipping should cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. MEPC is meeting this week at the London headquarters of the IMO to set down GHG targets for shipping. The majority of the Pacific islands, joined by the European Union, have called for swift cuts of between 70 to 100% by 2050, while ICS has managed to negotiate a watered down target of 50%.

“The final agreement – the IMO moment of truth – to be reached in a few hours will cast the IMO as, either a rogue, or an engaged party on climate action towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. We know through the OECD International Transport Forum latest report that almost full decarbonisation of the sector is possible by 2035, using existing technologies. This means that maritime shipping, as a sector of transport, has no right to be immune from the paradigm shift needed to achieve zero gas emissions by 2050. The fossil fuel industry, the energy sector, the aviation, the car industry and land transport sectors, the financing and investment industries have all understood the need to decarbonize, and with as much ambition and as early as possible,” Martel, the head of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, said in a release issued this morning.

Martel said ICS is acting “irrationally” in asking for a compromise.

“The Pacific has already compromised enough in the negotiations to reach the Paris Agreement, on loss and damage, on enforceable targets, on 2 degrees, while knowing 1.5 degrees provides a 50/50 chance of survival for the world’s most vulnerable. 1 degree is already too much – just ask our friends across the small islands developing states diaspora,” Martel said, adding: “I fear the Pacific has already compromised for too long – on nuclear testing, on overfishing, on plastic waste, on climate change and now – on shipping.”

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. The text will be debated at MEPC tomorrow.

“Governments on all sides of the debate are going to need to show far more willingness to compromise on their current positions or put at risk an agreement on a meaningful strategy. This would greatly undermine the authority of IMO and the future sustainability of the shipping industry,” ICS chairman, Esben Poulsson, said ahead of the MEPC meeting.

“Agreement upon a mid-century objective for the total reduction of CO2 emissions by the sector, regardless of trade growth, will be vital to discourage unilateral action and to provide the signal needed to stimulate the development of zero CO2 fuels,” Poulsson added. “But the very high level of ambition proposed by certain EU Member States – a 70 to 100% total cut in emissions before 2050 – is unlikely to achieve consensus support.”

ICS deputy secretary general, Simon Bennett, commenting on the draft text due for debate tomorrow, said: “[T]he goals now tentatively agreed by most governments for short term efficiency improvement, and for mid-century GHG reduction by the sector as whole, should be sufficiently ambitious to provide the signal needed to stimulate the development of zero CO2 fuels, so we can collectively get on with the job of eliminating green house gas emissions from shipping as soon as possible.”

Bennett said further “fine tuning” of the strategy would be needed at MEPC this week, but governments should stick to the “carefully crafted political package” that has been negotiated.

Bennett warned governments should refrain so far as possible from reopening major substantive issues unless they wish to risk unravel what he described as a “very significant climate deal”.

Splash will be reporting live tomorrow evening the results of the important MEPC debate.

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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