The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed to halve shipping’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 despite many nations hoping for a larger reduction.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) agreed a cut in GHG emissions of at least 50% compared with 2008 levels despite a number of states, including Pacific islands and Northern European countries, wanting to reduce GHG emissions by 70-100% by 2050.
Scores of countries lamented that the 50% figure lacked ambition, but agreed the deal represented a crucial starting point and said it sent a ‘healthy political message’ to the rest of the world.
David Paul, minister-in-assistance to the president and environment minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, told the MEPC: “We must leave here in no doubt. History has been made by the IMO today.
“This is a step – an important step – on our journey to a safe and sustainable future. There are many steps to come, and the world will be watching very closely to make sure that the promises made today are fulfilled.”
As part of the strategy, the MEPC also agreed a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, and will pursue a 70% reduction by 2050.
The MEPC was meeting to bring the shipping sector in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 1.5C.
Efforts to move towards a complete abolition of GHG were curtailed by a number of emerging economies, such as Brazil.
The US was a notable critic of the deal and reiterated that the country had withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and as such is not legally tied by the same legislature that other countries are.
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia also aired concerns with the proposal, such as suggesting an absolute cap on GHG emissions, but all agreed with the implementation of the initial strategy.
International bodies including the European Commission and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) praised the deal, but emphasised that a 50% cut should be no more than a baseline figure.
Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the ICS, said: “This is a ground breaking agreement – a Paris Agreement for shipping – that sets a very high level of ambition for the future reduction of CO2 emissions.
“We are confident this will give the shipping industry the clear signal it needs to get on with the job of developing zero CO2 fuels, so that the entire sector will be in a position to decarbonise completely, consistent with the 1.5 degree climate change goal.”
Dates must now be arranged to bring together a working group which will put together an action plan on how to bring about the agreed reduction.
Delegates from Brazil and a number of other countries reminded the MEPC to deliver an evidence-backed action plan with consideration for the potential impacts on emerging economies.
Commenting on the agreement, Maersk Line said it was ‘pushing for stronger targets’ but that the deal was still a ‘great step.’