Sekimizu is a ‘danger to the planet’, says Marshall Islands foreign minister

Koji Sekimizu, secretary general of the IMO, has been called a “danger to the planet” by the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands (RMI) for discouraging world leaders from intervening and demanding more stringent regulation of emissions from shipping in a new UN treaty.

In a statement released on September 29, Sekimizu said any discussion of shipping’s contribution to global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions should be held at IMO, rather than as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The new treaty will be discussed at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris in December.

“In the process leading up to the Paris meeting, world leaders might be tempted to consider specific measures aimed at reducing shipping’s overall contribution of CO2 emissions, such as an overall cap. Such measures would artificially limit the ability of shipping to meet the demand created by the world economy, or would unbalance the level playing field that the shipping industry needs for efficient operation, and therefore must be avoided,” Sekimizu said.

“In addition, fiscal measures such as a levy on fuel are under active consideration, but such measures require careful analysis and development … But IMO is the most capable and appropriate forum for such complex considerations to occur and be resolved,” he continued.

Tony de Brum, the RMI’s foreign minister, said in a statement: “Of great alarm is the secretary-general’s misuse, or at least misunderstanding, of the evidence-base on shipping and its GHG [greenhouse gas] pollution.

“First, RMI is the front line for climate change and we face the very real existential threat if the world does not act now and act decisively. Climate change is not a future issue; it must be addressed, and addressed decisively, now,” de Brum said.

“Secondly, RMI and its flag are host to the third-largest independent shipping registry. It must be part of the climate change solution. But if RMI acts alone and directs only its registry to take a firm stance on shipping emissions, it will simply achieve the demise of our registry. It requires the industry as a whole to make a collective paradigm shift. This will only happen if the IMO sets a firm target now for the industry to reduce its overall emissions profile.”

In May, the RMI led the Pacific Islands in requesting the IMO set a “firm and ambitious” sector target for shipping to reduce its emissions based on 1.5-degree global warming threshold, and that this target was set out before the COP21 meeting in Paris. This request was reportedly dismissed personally by Sekimizu.

The IMO said in May that more work needed to be done to establish work processes for data collection, monitoring and evaluation for shipping emissions and to consider the outcomes from COP21 in Paris.

“How extraordinary that after 18 years the very essentials of Kyoto are being disputed, and by the outgoing IMO Secretary-General, no less. The Marshall Islands are right that Paris must intervene, and UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon must now see to that,” Bill Hemmings of NGO Transport & Environment said today.

According to figures from IMO’s most recent study, the total contribution from international shipping to global emissions fell from 2.8% to 2.2% from 2007 and 2012. The decrease came in spite of significant growth in seaborne trade and the cargo-carrying capacity of the world’s commercial fleet during the five-year period., which Sekimizu attributed to IMO regulation.

Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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