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Clean Shipping Coalition: IMO Too Slow in Tackling Shipping’s Climate Impact

The lack of progress and low ambition shown at last week’s round of negotiations to reduce shipping’s contribution to the climate crisis is deeply concerning and disappointing, the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC) said.

Two years after agreeing its initial greenhouse gas strategy, a meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) did little more than review options already on the table and gave far too much time to technical measures that will deliver too little too late, according to the abovementioned international association of environmental NGOs.

There was, however, a widespread acceptance by IMO member states and industry that ship speed is one of the most important factors affecting GHG emissions, with the CSC’s ship speed proposal being among those proposals for operational measures to be taken forward.

“The importance of speed reduction in cutting ship GHG emissions in the short-term is woven into the fabric of many of the proposed measures. The challenge as we go forward is to ensure that this most straight-forward of approaches is taken up and implemented in such a way that all ships contribute speed-related emission savings,” John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas at Risk, explained.

CSC, which has consultative status at the IMO, further said that Japan and Norway’s proposed measure to certify ships that limit their engine power – though the limit can easily be reversed – is “unambitious, opaque, and susceptible to cheating“. According to the coalition, it won’t achieve the urgent and deep cuts in emissions that are necessary if shipping is to respond appropriately to the climate emergency.

“The IMO spent yet another week talking the talk without deciding anything except to kick the can further down the road. Everything is slow at the IMO, except for polluting ships, and this needs to change,” Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager at Transport & Environment, stressed.

With Norway and Japan’s proposal, the IMO is being blown off course and will achieve nothing more than ‘greenwashing’ of world shipping,” Abbasov continued.

“There is a real risk that when developing measures the IMO aims only to achieve the floor of targets set on an unambitious baseline. The IMO must follow the science and aim for full decarbonisation of the shipping sector by 2050 at the latest, and that makes some measures more appropriate than others,” Dan Hubbell, shipping emissions campaign manager at Ocean Conservancy, concluded.

From November 11 to 15, the sixth session of the IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee Intersessional Working Group on GHG Emissions (ISWG-GHG6) met at the IMO headquarters in London. The meeting considered proposals for short-term measures to tackle shipping’s climate impact, amongst them proposals to reduce ship speeds.