EU urges IMO to set net-zero emissions target for 2050

The European Union (EU) has put forward an ambitious proposal to achieve net-zero emissions in the shipping sector by 2050.

Illustration; Image credit LR

On 21 June 2023, the EU Delegation to the UN, together with Denmark, Palau and Samoa, and with the participation of Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General and ASG of the Climate Action Selwin Hart, hosted a meeting in New York on climate and shipping, outlining the EU’s proposals for a new climate targets for the shipping sector.

The delegation believes that the international shipping sector is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions which continue to rise, both in absolute and in relative terms, and are close to reaching 3% of all man-generated GHG emissions.

The delegation believes that the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Initial Strategy on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Reduction from Ships (in 2018), which set an absolute GHG reduction target of 50% to reach by 2050 is insufficient and that it needs to be aligned with the broader climate objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement. By striving for net-zero emissions in shipping by 2050, the EU seeks to accelerate the sector’s transition towards more sustainable practices.

The calls for intensifying the IMO’s action in the field of GHG emissions reduction, both in terms of absolute emission reduction targets and of concrete policy measures, come ahead of very important meetings. Namely, 3-7 July 2023, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will meet in London to adopt a revised IMO climate strategy. In addition, the UN Climate Ambition Summit scheduled for UN General Assembly’s High-Level Week in September is fast approaching as well.

EU Head of Delegation to the UN Ambassador Olof Skoog introduced the EU proposals to UN Member States and other stakeholders ahead of the London meeting:  

  • For the EU and its Member States, it is logical that if the ultimate aim is a net-zero world in 2050, there is also a need a net-zero shipping sector by 2050, at the latest; the current IMO target of minus 50% until 2050 is clearly insufficient. 
  • The EU believes that international shipping needs to peak its emissions as soon as possible. Accordingly, minus 29% emissions until 2030, and minus 83% until 2040 would be good interim targets.
  • To reach net zero by mid-century, the EU will propose a technical measure of a greenhouse gas fuel standard. This would mandate a gradual reduction in the GHG intensity of marine fuels used on ships.
  • As an economic measure, the EU will propose a levy on the shipping sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of the levy would be proportionate to the amount of GHG emitted by the ship concerned. The EU is open to discuss the use of the revenues from the levy, including for countries vulnerable to climate change. 
  • The one decisive step now for July, however, is to achieve agreement on a net zero target for the shipping for 2050. This would show that the international community is serious about decarbonisation.

Otherwise, the shipping industry will not have enough incentives to provide alternative shipping fuels, be they ammonia, methanol or green hydrogen, and to invest in ships which can use them, Skoog explained.

The targets, milestones and measures proposed by the EU would guarantee the achievement of a green transition for the sector, which is compatible with the Paris Agreement and the objective of limiting global temperature rise to less than 1.5°C, but at the same time would keep the costs for States and businesses as low as possible.