IMO MEPC 77 to test govts’ decarbonisation commitments

This week, 174 governments will meet at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London to discuss the pressing carbon emission reduction challenges in the shipping industry.

Called the ‘first litmus test’ of the COP26 decarbonisation commitments, a meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 77) will decide whether to go ahead with a $5 billion R&D fund, the “IMO Maritime Research Fund (IMRF)”.

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As described, the IMRF would be paid for entirely by the industry, at no cost to governments or taxpayers. It would be used to accelerate the rapid increase of technology readiness levels to ensure zero-carbon fuels can be used on large ocean-going ships.

If approved, the R&D fund is expected to be up and running by 2023, with the ability to put large numbers of zero-carbon ships in the water by 2030, making net-zero shipping by 2050 a reality.

“If governments do not support the IMRF, we have to ask the question… why? The fund is a ‘no brainer’. Something you’d have thought governments would jump at to send a clear message to the world that they are serious about achieving their climate goals”, said Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Proposed in 2019, the IMRF is supported by the majority of the shipping industry representatives. However, the fund needs regulatory approval from the majority of governments attending MEPC for the mandatory R&D contribution system to be passed, which will be funded by collecting $2 per tonne of marine fuel consumed by ships trading internationally.

Guy Platten, secretary general of ICS said: “This really is the first ‘litmus test’ on governments’ commitments to decarbonisation since COP26. The $5 billion R&D provides governments with the opportunity to prove that their words have meaning, and they are serious about the transition to a zero-carbon sector”.

Even though the shipping industry supports the urgent measures necessary to help the industry achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, ICS fears that some governments may raise procedural obstacles to the establishment of an R&D fund.

According to ICS, this is due to suspicions that collaborative action benefiting global CO2 reduction efforts might negatively affect what governments perceive to be their national or regional interests.

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