Spirit of compromise points towards greenhouse gas deal at MEPC

The battle lines have been drawn at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as the 72nd gathering of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee enters its second day. Nevertheless, delegates tell Splash that there is a genuine determination to get a deal through on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships this week, and parties are willing to seek compromise.

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.

However, the EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and transport commissioner Violeta Bulc have written to ministers of IMO member states asking them to support a tougher target of 70 to 100%, a position strongly endorsed by an array of Pacific island states.

Cañete tweeted yesterday that 70-100% cuts “should be feasible and would correspond to an adequate contribution from the shipping sector [to the Paris Agreement]”.

IMO secretary general Kitack Lim opened proceedings yesterday, telling delegates: “We stand here at one of the most historic moments in IMO when, for some years now, the global community has brought nations together in a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. As a member of the United Nations family, IMO is encouraged by the spirit of the Paris Agreement and fully committed to further limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, bearing in mind the successful progress which has been achieved to date.”

Day one opened with strong statements from a number of Pacific Islands, each getting a round of applause, something that is unusual at the normally quiet IMO.

The Marshall Islands’ environment minister David Paul maintained in an opening speech: “The argument being presented by some that climate action means a negative impact on shipping and trade is completely and utterly false.”

A spokesperson for Bangladesh echoed Paul’s call for swift emission cuts, saying: “It is painful for us to inform you and the global community that if we breach the 1.5 degree temperature goal our country will be partially or fully underwater. Mr Chair and delegations, we urge IMO to align their goal with the Paris Agreement temperature goal. It is challenging but not impossible. Any delay or obstacle in this process will worsen our condition only.”

Splash understands a hot topic along the corridors of the IMO yesterday was the American statement in the working group last week where the US came out in opposition to any outright reduction goal for the shipping sector.

However, the US position has already been sidelined. The draft text in its current form refers to 50% reduction in CO2 by 2050, including an outright reduction goal of the exact type US argued IMO should not have.

Splash will be reporting developments from MEPC all week.

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. Fifty per cent of what?




    “O Lord, make me chaste and virtuous, but not yet!” (Confessions of Saint Augustine, 8.17)

    The world is watching. We must hope that the delegates can at least try to be serious.

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