Selective deafness

In her second installment from Paris, Diane Gilpin from the Smart Green Shipping Alliance gives Splash readers exclusive coverage of the climate talks.

I’ll need a night’s sleep to synthesise all I’ve learned today at the ‘shipping as part of climate solution’ COP21 side event, for now here are my immediate reactions.

Centre Pompidou has some amazing art and I’m privileged to have presented alongside Chagall. Everyone is lovely, everyone is smiling but does anything change?

There are deeply entrenched positions at either end of the discussion with IMO and ICS at one end of the spectrum and UN and NGOs at the other. The battle lines are drawn.

It’s those of us in the middle who will have to make the difference.

The hosts of the jointly promoted event kicked off proceedings. Well, one did, the other, wasn’t quite so able.

Gildas Maire, president of Armateurs de France, underlined an urgent need for improved designs, new forms of propulsion and speed reduction as ways of shipping reducing CO2 emissions and he beseeched people to “think outside the box”.

Sturla Henriksen, CEO of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, exemplified going above and beyond the line of duty. He delivered a powerful speech, pacing the platform, urging shipping to act responsibly about the world we leave for the next generation. Only at lunch did he resort to using the crutches his doctors had prescribed for his broken foot.

Next up, the Global Regulations and Shipping Panel. Tine Sundtoft, Norway’s minister for climate and environment, was able to speak about her country’s investment in green shipping as a core development goal. The rest of the panel went pretty much to form.

Nicolas Svenningsen, from UNFCC and Samantha Smith from WWF, contextualised the maritime sector’s responsibility in the global framework. This year is the hottest year on record, and the last record year was …the year before that. Shipping is considered a “small emitter” but it’s the same as Germany – who are committing to rapid decarbonisation targets.

Edmund Hughes, representing the IMO and Peter Hinchliffe, secretary general, ICS, stood firm on championing shipping’s perspective, saying the introduction of international energy efficiency agreements is a major achievement and that all ships built by 2025 will be 30% more energy efficient.

One feels they may all have heard it all and said it all before.

The discussion went on to explore ‘Pioneering Change and Climate Solutions’.

The International Energy Agency talked about efficiency and Jose Maria Figueres made some eloquent points, which, if I’m honest, went over my head because I had to follow him and he’s a very smart ex-president and I was feeling just a bit outclassed.

It was down to me and Herve Lapierre from Louis Dreyfus to talk about actual change and what it might take to really make it happen.

Over a delicious Parisien lunch (someone’s got to do it) I found myself talking to shipowner representatives. They clearly feel threatened and defensive, that they believe they are just cash cows. I’m not sure they heard anything the UN/NGOs had said about climate change being an existential threat, about the inevitable change, when it comes, being more painful and expensive if we don’t respond now in a proactive way.

It was personally disappointing to be labelled a ‘green’ lobbyist. Pretty much every penny I’ve made over a lifetime in innovation is invested in developing the SGSA, I’m an entrepreneur and see huge financial opportunity in maritime renewables. So either, I failed to communicate the potential financial opportunities that can be expected – look to onshore renewables for examples – or they failed to hear me because we do so like to pigeon hole people.

Shipowners’ concerns are very real and it’s vitally important to hear them. It’s very easy to dismiss people because we have preconceived ideas about what they will say, what they will believe.

Complex, interconnected systems can change, but it is dependent on everyone within the system really listening to and hearing the other ‘side’, committing to collaboration and moving towards a clearly defined goal.


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