IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has written to senior European officials expressing his concern that including shipping in the European Union’s emission trading system could undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping on a global basis.
In a letter to Martin Schulz (President of the European Parliament), Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission) and Donald Tusk (President of the European Council), Lim acknowledged that the E.U. had an ambitious policy for addressing emissions and recognized that Member States might wish to enhance the progress made to date. However, he cautioned against extending the E.U. emissions trading system to include ships.
“I am concerned that a final decision to extend the E.U. emissions trading system to shipping emissions would not only be premature but would seriously impact on the work of IMO to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping,” said Lim. “Inclusion of emissions from ships in the E.U. emissions trading system significantly risks undermining efforts on a global level.”
The letter follows an agreement on December 16, 2016, by the European Parliament's Environment Committee that emissions from ships should be included in the system from 2023 if the IMO does not deliver a further global measure to reduce GHG emissions for international shipping by 2021.
Lim says the IMO’s efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping have reached an advanced stage. In 2011, IMO became the first international body to adopt mandatory energy-efficiency measures for an entire industry sector with a suite of technical and operational requirements for new and existing vessels that entered into force in 2013.
In October 2016, the IMO adopted a system for collecting data on ships’ fuel-oil consumption which will be mandatory and will apply globally. This will be the first in a three-step approach leading to an informed decision on whether any further measures are needed to enhance energy efficiency and address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. If so, policy options would then be considered.
IMO also approved a roadmap for developing a comprehensive strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, which foresees an initial greenhouse gas strategy being adopted in 2018.
These measures were agreed, by consensus by IMO Member States, including E.U. Member States. In his letter, Lim said this not only demonstrates the IMO’s leadership and role as the global body for developing and implementing requirements for international shipping, but also reaffirms that the IMO is the only appropriate body to take this work forward and achieve the necessary political cooperation of all governments represented at the IMO, including E.U. Member States. He added, “Such political cooperation is important to ensure that all countries act together to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Lim said that, in his view, unilateral or regional action that conflicts with or undermines actions that have been carefully considered and deliberated by the global community at the IMO threatens world-wide confidence in the consistent, uniform system of regulation developed by the IMO. Regional or unilateral action, he said, would harm the goals of the wider international community to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions from ships and be at odds with the overarching objectives of the Paris Agreement.
The 2015 Paris Agreement makes no reference to emissions from international shipping, due to the global nature of the sector and the difficulty in allocating emissions from a ship to a single state. However, Lim stresses, the IMO’s work on the control of greenhouse gas emissions shows that strong action is being taken.
A decision by the IMO Council at the beginning of December 2016 to authorize two additional meetings of a special MEPC Working Group on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships during 2017 (the first to be held 26-30 June) will enable further progress, and illustrates the importance and urgency that the IMO attaches to the issue.
In parallel, the IMO will continue its efforts to provide related assistance to developing countries through major capacity-building projects on energy efficiency in ship operations.