‘We will not compromise on our survival’: Marshall Islands responds to ICS criticism

The republic of the Marshall Islands has hit back at claims it is being both inflexible and unrealistic in its stance on shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions.

On Tuesday, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which is representing the world’s national shipowners’ associations and over 80% of the world merchant fleet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn this week, lambasted the Marshall Islands’s very aggressive emission cutting proposals.

ICS said via Twitter the “inflexible” and “unrealistic stance” of the Marshall Islands, both at the International Maritime Organization and in Bonn, risks consensus in addressing shipping’s stance on CO2.

The Marshall Islands has led a clutch of Pacific island nations that are in danger of disappearing off the map thanks to rising seas in calling for the most sweeping shipping emission cuts. ICS has said this week that a 100% cut in shipping emissions by 2035 – as called for by the Marshall Islands – is “not possible”.

In a statement issued yesterday by the Marshall Islands’ ministry of foreign affairs, the tiny republic hit back, restating its position.

“The Marshall Islands speaks as one of the most climate vulnerable nations on Earth, and also as the world’s second largest shipping registry,” the statement read, also pointing out that the country is also greatly dependent on the shipping sector for food imports.

“In that capacity and context,” the statement continued, “we stress that ambitious climate action and sustainable growth of the shipping sector are both possible.”

The republic urged IMO to ensure ambitious measures are put in place from next spring, rather than waiting through to later deadlines in 2023.

“Relevant technologies and policy options exist to do that now. IMO must implement ambitious action well before 2023 in order to limit global temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the statement read. The Marshall Islands team said it was concerned with the limited negotiating time left to agree IMO’s initial strategy, and that member states were far from consensus.

“Disappointingly little progress was made in the IMO on this issue last month,” the Marshall Islands statement read.

With less than five months until IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) next convenes for a crucial meeting, the Marshall Islands stated member states must agree on an “ambitous” strategy consistent with the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.

“We will not accept anything less as an outcome,” the statement concluded.

The foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, John Silk, waded into the ongoing debate in Bonn, stating on Twitter yesterday: ”[W]e will not compromise on our survival.” Silk added that if the IMO was to remain credible it must play its full part in reducing emissions.

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. Maybe i am out of context, dunno, but i am still stuck with MEPC 60/4/8. Maybe something has changed in between but If Marshal Islands think that a GHG fund imposing levies on bunker purchases would be enough to refloat their island good luck and have a nice life.

    Buying your right to pollute leads nowhere. It all is a matter of reducing pollution by reducing activity, if the extent of energy consumption efficiency does not suffice. I cannot see any other way around it, if i am to exclude nuclear energy and of course batteries.

  2. I think the Marshall Islands is way out of line by demanding the owners who have ships registered there should support a new resolution at the IMO to reduce ship emissions in a very short period.
    The suggestion that the Marshall Islands will be under water by 2035 is rubbish and the suggestion that shipping is the major cause of air pollution is also factually incorrect.
    Ships engine exhaust is mostly discharged at sea where it dissipates and has little or no effect on global warming.
    It was recently shown that all the ship emissions were the same as the volume as those of the country of Germany but spread over an area many hundreds of times the size of Germany.
    It is not the responsibility for the Flag registrations to pressure their members to support issues at the IMO which could materially affect the shipowners without their individual agreement.
    I suggest that owners leave the Marshall Islands for other more responsible registries who act for their members and not take stands on issues without their members consent.
    Paul Slater

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