MEPC 78: IMO urged to kick-start shipping decarbonisation to cut Arctic melt

The Clean Arctic Alliance has called on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take urgent action to curb climate impacts on the Arctic, by delivering meaningful short-term measures that would kick-start dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) and black carbon emissions from shipping this decade.

Courtesy of IMO

The call comes as a meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 78) opens this week. The committee will hold a virtual session from 6 June to 10 June.

The MEPC 78 will see the IMO address short-term measures to reduce GHG emissions, mid-term measures including strengthening the carbon intensity indicator for ships and start considering a revision of the IMO’s GHG strategy.

In addition, a proposal for a new emission control area covering the Mediterranean waters, which if agreed will reduce SOx and black carbon emissions in the region, will be on the table for approval during the meeting.

Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, made up of 20 not-for-profit organisations, said: “The IMO must improve its levels of ambition in the recently agreed short-term carbon intensity reduction measures including a 1.5°C -compatible improvement in the carbon intensity of ships, and revise its climate targets to ensure a 50% reduction in CO2e emissions by 2030, and full decarbonisation by 2040.

“Only with concrete measures and immediate action to reduce emissions this decade do we have any hope of remaining below 1.5° C heating globally, which is essential if we are to retain sea ice in the Arctic throughout the summer in the 2030s.

“To avert the worst impacts on an already over-heating Arctic, the IMO must also make immediate cuts to black carbon emissions from shipping in and near the Arctic, as well as reducing the industry’s global emissions of black carbon.

A switch to using distillate fuels in and near the Arctic would quickly reduce black carbon emissions by around 44% – practically overnight, while adding diesel particulate filters would reduce black carbon by over 90% – and that should be feasible before 2030.”

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In April, following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III 6th Assessment Report on Climate Mitigation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticised governments and industry for their climate inaction, while the IPCC’s report criticised the poor climate governance of international shipping, saying that “improvements to national and international governance structures would further enable the decarbonisation of shipping and aviation”, the alliance reminded.

“As a United Nations agency, the IMO must face up to the realities facing our planet, by aligning its priorities with the UN on climate change, and using its political power and the shipping industry’s vast technological resources to decarbonise the shipping sector”, concluded Prior.

IMO MEPC 77 was held in November 2021 and was called the ‘first litmus test’ of the COP26 decarbonisation commitments. However, IMO member states did not reach an agreement on revising the IMO’s current target and on committing to reducing shipping emissions to zero by 2050.

They failed to show sufficient support for the proposed resolution for zero shipping emissions by 2050 put forward by the Marshall and Solomon Islands, despite the broad support for the target. 

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