IMO accused of “greenwashing” by climate campaigners

IMO accused of “greenwashing” by climate campaigners
Discussions on a US$100 per tonne carbon tax did not reach a final decision

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) climate plan for the global shipping fleet to reduce its carbon intensity by 1.5% a year has been described as “greenwashing” by environmental campaigners.

Transport & Environment (T&E), an NGO, claimed the 11% reduction target by 2026 compared to 2019 levels, is “weak” and would be achieved under business as usual.

According to T&E, a 7% annual reduction would be required to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.

It added that the EU must resist all attempts by the IMO to stop it taking effective regional measures to reduce the climate impact of shipping in Europe.

Faig Abbasov, shipping programme director at T&E, said: “The maritime regulator is greenwashing shipping with a hopelessly weak ship efficiency target.

“The proposal shows total disregard for climate science and is nothing more than a cosmetic measure. Meanwhile, the IMO is meddling in the democratic affairs of the EU by trying to curb its plans to cut ship pollution. This is unacceptable.”

Currently, the EU is preparing to include shipping in its emissions trading system when it revises the bloc’s carbon market on July 14.

The EU will also propose to require ships to progressively switch to alternative sustainable fuels.

During the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 76) on June 17, no decision was reached on a proposal by the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands to implement a mandatory levy of $100 per tonne carbon dioxide equivalent on heavy fuel oil.

This proposal will be considered at further meetings over the course of the next two years, although any measures will only be finalised afterwards.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “Concessions have been made on all sides in the interest of securing the framework we have in place. Our consideration of mid- and long-term measures will demand even more of us.

“I am very pleased that the Committee has agreed on a work plan to support carrying out this dimension of our work in a structured way that will keep the membership together.”

Earlier this year, Maersk proposed a market-based measure of at least US$450 per tonne of fuel in the medium term at the current oil price to ensure that fossil fuels cannot remain cheaper than green fuels.

In June, MSC CEO Soren Toft remarked: “Some form of global market-based measure, incorporating carbon pricing, could help the industry to decarbonise by reducing the price gap between fossil fuels and zero-carbon fuels as they become available.”

Meanwhile, consideration of a proposal to establish an International Maritime Research Board (IMRB), funded by a tax on oil fuel used by shipping also did not yield a final outcome, with further discussions to continue at the next MEPC session.

The IMRB had been envisaged as a US$5bn programme, governed by the IMO, to coordinate and to raise money for research and development (R&D) to lower emissions.

Before the MEPC, CEOs of 17 members of the World Shipping Council backed the proposal for an R&D fund that would help catalyse new technologies and zero-carbon fuels to decarbonise the industry.

Toft noted: “Despite our huge investments into our fleet and operations, scalable long-term solutions simply do not currently exist for us to deploy on our ships.

“There is a gap in R&D to bring these alternative fuels and technologies to the market and the industry wide research fund will help us achieve the UN IMO’s policy targets.”

At the MEPC, several amendments to MARPOL Annex VI were adopted, requiring ships with three years of poor Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) ratings to submit corrective action plans.

Lim added: “The path to decarbonisation is a long, but also a common path in which we need to consider and respect each other’s views. We have made a considerable amount of progress since the start of our journey.”