Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement must not derail IMO’s emissions drive

A host of senior shipping officials and NGOs have reacted as one to urge the International Maritime Organization to continue its efforts to cut shipping emissions, despite President Donald Trump’s decision on Thursday to pull pull the US out of the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate change.

The deal – signed off in December 2015 by 195 countries – aims to limit global warming to well below 2C above pre industrial levels, a ceiling deemed dangerous by many scientists.

The White House decision does not directly impact climate talks at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Shipping was not included in the Paris Agreement and negotiations on maritime pollution control, the use of HFO in polar waters and CO2 cuts are the focus of IMO.

On Friday the EU and China will announce a new range of collaborative measures on climate, including a pledge to “reinforce cooperation” at the IMO.

Dan Rutherford, marine director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, commented: “Since shipping isn’t covered in the Paris Agreement, it seems unlikely that this will slow down progress in IMO. For example, the US remains bound by its promises to reduce black carbon emissions and dirty marine fuels in the Arctic. Trump’s move doesn’t change that.”

Bill Hemmings, director, aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment, suggested the US decision actually puts more pressure on shipping.

“We will be watching and pressing all IMO member states, particularly some of those flags of convenience representing such a large proportion of the world’s fleet not to backslide,” Hemmings said, adding: “Already proposals on the table from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and others hardly deviate from business as usual. It’s now or never for the IMO to act and time for the EU to implement an insurance policy should IMO fail.”

John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk concurred with 
Hemmings, saying:
“As the US shirks its climate responsibilities the importance of action by other big emitters like international shipping only grows”.

Esben Poulsson, the head of both ICS and the Singapore Shipping Association, maintained that Trump’s decision would not derail shipping’s efforts to cut its carbon footprint.

“We have already noted that China and the EU will issue a statement of strong support for the Paris Agreement. We suspect that others will follow, and it seems unlikely that the US decision will stimulate a flow of other nations to walk away from Paris,” Poulsson told Splash, adding: “We do not think that the decision will derail the efforts of the industry already under way because overall, we believe there is a general consensus within the industry that we will play our part in matching the spirit and ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

Reacting on Twitter Maria Bruun Skipper, Danish Shipping’s environment spokesperson, urged: “Trump’s decision must NOT be a showstopper at IMO! Shipping has to deliver.”

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. I am confident that IMO has the required maturity to hold its course on the emissions agenda and not be distracted!

  2. The IMO has ‘drive’ to reduce the emissions from shipping? Who knew?

Back to top button