Shipping nations risk loss of control over greenhouse gas regulation
The key environmental sub-group of the UN-linked International Maritime Organisation (IMO) concluded a week long meeting today possibly further away than ever from agreement on efficiency and technology initiatives and market based mechanisms to cut shipping emissions.
Under existing UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements, the shipping and aviation sectors have been charged with coming up with mechanisms to cut emissions.
At its last meeting in March, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (IMO MEPC) had endorsed a package of efficiency measures, specifically a mandatory energy efficiency design index (EEDI) and ships energy efficiency management plan (SEEMP). But the week-long meeting concluding tonight has failed to reach any consensus on implementing these measures.
“Like the aviation industry, the world’s maritime nations either need to find an emissions reductions solution within the IMO framework or face the possibility of less sympathetic regulation from elsewhere,” said Dr Simon Walmsley, WWF’s observer to the IMO talks.
“The worst outcome for a global industry like shipping would be to have differing emissions reductions schemes being imposed in different places – but that is the future shipping nations are courting by failing to reach agreement in their own forum.”
The world’s shipping industry accounts for over 2.7 % of total carbon emissions, and plays an important role in the global economy, transporting over 90% of global trade.
The meeting exposed further rifts between developed and developing maritime nations and was marked by a blunt refusal by some nations to acknowledge that shipping needs to contribute substantially to the global emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
All shipping flag states are treated equally under IMO rules, while in other forums such as the UNFCCC concessions are made to the needs of developing states.
“Drawing such distinctions between developing and developed countries in shipping is not that simple,” said Dr Walmsley. “Shipping owners may be from a developed country, but their ships could be built, flagged and crewed in developing countries.
“Shipping states can either find creative ways to slash emissions together or see additional costs imposed on world trade as some trading blocks, states or even just ports bring shipping into their own regional schemes for reducing greenhouse gases.”
No rules required for one solution
Ironically, some leading shipping companies are steaming ahead with an option which dramatically reduces emissions with “no rules, regulations, investments or even research needed”.
Writing to mark World Maritime Day, traditionally held during the last week of September, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) CEO Arild Iversen and WWF International Director General James Leape noted that just a four knot reduction in sailing speed could reduce daily emissions by nearly 40 percent.
But with surveys showing goods in transit spend lengthy periods just waiting for connections, “slowing vessels down would not mean slowing up trade” the two leaders wrote.
”By planning more precisely, goods and cargo could actually travel slower, yet arrive to consumers sooner, while reducing emissions, cost and port congestion at the same time.
“We appreciate that manufacturers have capital invested in cargo, and sitting cargo is sitting capital, but a better balance between time and emissions can be reached.”
WWL, the world’s largest provider of Ro-Ro ocean transportation, has long been a key partner in WWF’s high seas conservation work and has a vision of largely emissions free shipping by 2040.
For further information:
Dr Simon Walmsley SWalmsley@wwf.org.uk +44 7920023318
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with more than 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
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