Up to 30 nations threaten to walk away from IMO’s emissions meet-up

It’s been an especially fractious week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as debate rages on how best to improve shipping’s carbon footprint.

As the IMO’s Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships reaches its final day today there is a real threat that up to 30 nations are ready to walk out, irritated at what they perceive as the lack of ambition in the draft text doing the rounds. The text from this meeting will be taken up at next month’s Marine Environment Protection Committee virtual gathering.

Critics haver pointed out that the so called J/5 text under discussion contains no carbon intensity target, and reduces the stringency of the required Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) for many ship types.

A number of NGOs maintain that the proposal would, at best, curb just 0.8% -1.6% of GHG emissions from a business-as-usual growth pathway by 2030, where the business as usual pathway is +15% above the industry’s 2008 baseline.

Moreover, the proposal’s loopholes have come under fire. Non-compliant ships will be able to continue underperforming for three consecutive years before they even have to file a plan to make improvements, and can easily game underperformance indefinitely by ensuring one compliant year every three years.

The watered down proposal seen by Splash means all clauses that would create consequences for non-compliance – such as increased EEXI stringency or ultimately revoking a ship’s statement of compliance – have been removed.

In a joint statement signed by four NGOs – the WWF, Transport & Environment, Pacific Environment and Seas at Risk – the J/5 text is accused of violating the initial IMO GHG Strategy in three ways.

“It will fail to reduce emissions before 2023, will not peak emissions as soon as possible, and will not set ship CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement goals,” the statement from the NGOs claims, adding: “The IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees made it clear that the next ten years are crucial if dangerous runaway global heating is to be avoided. The IMO’s response must not be to support an industry-sponsored measure that would throw those ten years away, allow emissions to rise for a decade or more, and seriously undermine all others efforts at keeping global heating below 1.5 degrees.”

Splash will be reporting later today on the outcome of this week’s IMO meeting. It comes as Europe and the US look to create their own alternate environmental regulations on shipping.

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. Someone claims that 30 nations are ready to walk away? So ? Another 160 are ready no to follow suit. Is it a numbers game? You lost. Self-righteouss bullies threatening sovereign nations. UN Specialized agencies are independent, They have their own governing bodies and they make decisions. Not Mr. Guterres or anyone else.

    You want to make decisions? Create a party, run for office and then deal with congress, subject your self to oversight and accountability. Be transparent. Become legitimate in representative democracy and not paws of your masters who pay your hefty salaries.

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