Shipping Emissions: Sailing in Circles

7 November 2016

The UN’s shipping body, the International Maritime Organization, had a mixed meeting last month. Where does this now leave the sector’s pledge to act? The IMO met to discuss air quality, as well as GHG emissions, but how does this level up from agreements made in Paris? We saw long awaited action on air quality, but it is disappointing that Parties couldn’t show equal ambition when it came to shipping’s climate impact.

The key issue at stake was whether the sector—with a CO2 impact greater than Germany—will pull together an emissions target in time for the 2018 facilitative dialogue. One proposal was to set a provisional target, and then update it when more data became available. But we are currently going down with this ship.

Following huge opposition from a group of member states and the industry, the IMO eventually settled for an “IMO Strategy” document to be developed and submitted to COP24. Under the agreed roadmap, the strategy includes neither a provisional target nor clear emission pathways and measures for international shipping. Rather it looks to short-medium-long term efficiency opportunities for international shipping. This is a euphemism for no action at least for the next 7 years, and a certainty of no wind in its sails.

While agreeing on a roadmap that looked into efficiency opportunities in one area, IMO failed in the other to make progress on reducing emissions by tightening the energy efficiency standards (EEDI) for ships. Current ships already meet the incredibly weak EEDI requirements for 2020. Thus, the only climate measure currently at the disposal of the shipping industry is having no impact on reducing emissions.

With IMO failing again, action at the European level may be required instead—something ECO hears European lawmakers are already working on. Outmoded policies, like ageing ships, need an overhaul from time to time.

Shipping Emissions: Sailing in Circles

Support CAN

Help us build power in the climate movement by contributing a one-time or recurring donation that will go to supporting our global work as well as various activities and campaigns in communities in different regions.

Donate to CAN

Stay informed

Subscribe to receive monthly updates on the latest on the climate movement including the content from across the network, upcoming climate change events, news articles and opinion pieces on climate, straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter