Seaspan Hamburg entering Port of Oakland Credit Dreamstime_m_212514967

Debate at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) over its level of ambition for decarbonising shipping closed without conclusion – discussions continued for more than a day and a half of the five-day meeting, and the chairman invited member states to submit proposals for discussion at the next meeting.

Concluding discussions on increasing the level of industry ambition by moving to zero emissions by 2050, chairman Hideaki Saito reminded delegates that the IMO, as a UN body, was not working in isolation when it came to dealing with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Mr Saito pointed out that the IMO’s sister organisations included diverse views on the methods for dealing with the effects of climate change.

“There is an urgent need for all sectors to reduce GHG emissions and this [the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)] committee recognises the need be certain that its decisions are aligned with COP26 decisions,” said Mr Saito.

He stressed the need to show that the maritime sector acknowledged its obligations as one of the largest polluters in the world, while also understanding that the impact of financial measures with technology transfer and other issues that could distort the maritime market, and threaten a “just transition”.

The Loadstar understands that the EU and others blocked immediate approval of the revised strategy, which would see IMO adopt a new target of zero emissions by 2050, compared with a 50% cut on 2008 emissions. However, discussions over climate change issues have not ended with the agenda item on market-based measures (MBMs) expected to be as contentious as the revision of the level of ambition.

Discussions over MBMs will initially centre on the EU’s cap and trade system, a regional carbon trading system, which vessel operators believe will distort the maritime market. An alternative has been proposed by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) which claims to represent 80% of ship owners.

The ICS proposes a carbon levy, which it insists is not a tax but a contribution paid to an IMO fund that will support the maritime transition through R&D programmes.

After two days of debate on the level of ambition up to 2050, delegates are complaining that the climate change issue is taking up too much time and that other important issues are not being given due consideration.

A number of delegates at the MEPC have argued that a separate meeting should be established to deal with air pollution issues from shipping so that other equally pressing issues such as plastics in the oceans can also be addressed.

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