LONDON: Nearly 200 countries are approaching a legally binding agreement to reduce pollution from the world’s cargo ships, a step forward after two years of talk about how industry should clean up its emissions.
A series of virtual meetings will begin on Monday hosted by the United Nations shipping agency on a new rating system that will measure the carbon intensity of the 60,000 large ships transporting everything from containers to crude oil.
Following a historic 2018 agreement by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), its members are negotiating ways to achieve their goal of halving industrial emissions by mid-century. All of them agreed a rating system was necessary for the ship’s carbon intensity, but they remained divided about how it should be calculated and how it should be enforced, according to people familiar with the talks and documents seen by Bloomberg.
The International Chamber of Shipping, a group sponsoring the compromise proposal with 14 other countries including Japan, China, Germany and India, said the deal would represent a big leap for the industry.
Environmental groups say shipowners are not moving fast enough and that IMO’s efforts will do little to contain the threat of global warming. “We know a lot more can be done and what we do has to work in practice as well as in writing,” said Simon Bennett, deputy secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping. “If we are to achieve a truly global solution to total decarbonization of world shipping, then radically innovative technological solutions must be found.”
Starting today, parties to IMO talks will discuss a compromise proposal that maps how the industry will act. They remain divided over the following problems:
European countries argue that the most polluting vessels should be delivered to ships if they still do not comply by 2029.Others including China and Japan, which chair the environmental agency IMO, along with the International Chamber of Shipping, say Europe’s proposed enforcement measures is too restrictive as vessels are already facing energy audits which could result in penalties and penalties if they do not comply.
Environmental groups and countries vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change, such as the Marshall Islands, say no steps are decisive enough and that even a European plan will allow shipping emissions to continue to increase for another decade.
“Politically if they agree to the proposal, then they have made progress,” said Faig Abbasov, director of dispatch for the Transport and Environment campaign group. “But this compromise text means they basically agreed to do nothing.”
The shipping industry is responsible for enormous pollution. That’s partly because many ships burn heavy oil in what is called sulfur-rich bunker fuel, which causes acid rain. If it were a country, shipments would be alongside Germany as the world’s sixth largest emitter of CO2, according to the World Bank.
The industry brought stringent new requirements this year on fuel quality, helping to reduce sulfur emissions. It remains the main source of nitrogen oxides, another potent greenhouse gas.
Progress in industrial cleaning has been slow. Talks began in 1995, and it took until 2018 for the IMO to agree on a target. The goal is for shipments to reduce carbon dioxide intensity by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 2008 levels. They also agreed that their plans must be in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. – Bloomberg