Shipping EU ETS Proposal Should Be a Wake-Up Call for IMO?

The proposal by the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to include shipping in the EU emissions trading system (ETS) from 2023 if the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) fails to agree on a global measure to reduce shipping emissions should be a wake-up call for the UN agency, a senior official from the European Commission said.

The remarks come as EU governments weigh up what’s described as a necessary “insurance policy” in case the IMO fails to act again.

MEPs sent a “clear signal of their frustration that work on a global objective isn’t going fast enough”, according to Jos Delbeke, Head of the European Commission’s Climate Action Department.

Last month, the European Parliament plenary voted to include the shipping sector’s carbon emissions in the EU ETS – a move which, if accepted by EU governments, would regulate ship CO2 emissions for the first time.

Ship operators would either have to buy ETS emissions allowances from 2023 or contribute a corresponding amount to a new maritime climate fund. The fund would reinvest part of the revenue to be used for making ports and ships cleaner and more fuel efficient.

The proposal will now be discussed in the trialogue negotiations between EU governments, the Parliament and the Commission.

“We (the Commission) remain fully committed to a global agenda because shipping is a global industry, but the EP is a co-regulator,” Delbeke explained.

“We need objectives and clarity. Setting a target would be a useful way to reply to MEPs,” he added.

As EU governments now consider putting shipping in the ETS, Transport & Environment (T&E) said they would need to weigh up carefully whether to discard an “insurance policy” that protects Europe’s climate ambition in the event that the IMO fails to agree on a carbon reduction measure by 2023.

“Unfortunately the IMO’s record on taking responsibility for shipping’s climate impact has been one of continued failure. The UN agency was first charged with acting by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and now, two decades late, the IMO’s latest GHG emissions reduction plan envisages a further seven-year period to collect data and navel gaze with no commitment to act at the end of all this,” Bill Hemmings, T&E’s Shipping Director, said.