Clean Arctic Alliance urges IMO to create new emission control areas in Arctic

The Clean Arctic Alliance has urged the International Maritime Organization (IMO) member states to agree to the creation of new areas in the Arctic that will be protected from polluting air emissions from shipping.

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“The creation of Emission Control Areas in the Arctic will set an important precedent for protection of our climate and our ocean,” said Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance.

The announcement comes ahead of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 81) which will be held this week (18-22 March) in London.

Canada and Norway have proposed the creation of Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in Canadian Arctic waters and the Norwegian Sea, respectively. The proposal, if agreed upon by the iMO, could provide additional protection from air emissions in Canadian Arctic waters and the Norwegian Sea by reducing emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from international shipping.

“The designation of ECAs in Canadian Arctic Waters and the Norwegian Sea has the potential to drive broad positive change, especially if the shipping sector complies with the designation by switching to low-sulphur distillate fuels or other cleaner non-fossil fuels. In addition, reducing emissions of SOx and particulate matter will also provide the co-benefit of reducing black carbon (BC) emissions, provided that cleaner ECA-compliant fuels – and, in particular, distillates – are used,” Prior highlighted.

Prior added that there are many benefits if these areas are to be created. This could improve air quality for northern populations, deliver benefits to both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and also potentially contribute to a reduction in climate-forcing black carbon pollution in the Arctic.

“The Norwegian Sea ECA will reduce impacts on human health and contribute to reduced deposition of nitrogen and sulphur along the Norwegian coast, including a 58% reduction in particulate matter, such as black carbon, by 2030 compared with 2020. Both ECAs will significantly reduce air pollution from ships in the Arctic,” he added.

“…It is important that proposals for new ECAs are as effective and environmentally sound as possible, to ensure their full potential is realised,” stated Carolina Silva, Shipping & Ocean Policy Officer at Zero.

“These new ECA proposals highlight the need for continued work on a possible designation of an ECA in the North-East Atlantic Ocean as referred to at MEPC 80 last summer, (MEPC 80/INF.35). Such an ECA will significantly expand the socio-economic, environmental and health benefits for a large number of coastal communities along the North-East Atlantic region and will also have the co-benefit of reducing black carbon emissions from shipping further south which can still impact the Arctic.”

At the beginning of this year, the Clean Arctic Alliance issued a statement calling for IMO to adopt an underwater noise action plan.

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The action plan will support the use of guidance to reduce underwater noise which could also provide co-benefits in the form of energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.

“Several other crucial issues were slated for inclusion at MEPC 81, but have now frustratingly been kicked down the road to MEPC 82 this autumn. These include addressing black carbon emissions, and the use of scrubbers and discharge of scrubber wastewater,” said Prior.

“The proposal for a Canadian Arctic waters ECA includes a welcome and clear reference to the fact that the use of scrubbers as an alternative compliance mechanism will not provide the same benefits in terms of reducing black carbon emissions. Black carbon constitutes 20% of the shipping sector’s global climate impact, and it is five times more potent a climate disruptor when emitted in the Arctic region from sources such as shipping,” Prior concluded.

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