From November 7-18, delegates from nearly 200 nations will be in Marrakech for the COP22 climate conference, the follow-up to the landmark meeting in Paris last year.
Negotiators will be working to hammer out the details of last year's groundbreaking climate deal – how exactly, and how fast, the countries will move to implement the promised changes.
They will also have to decide whether to set more stringent requirements for themselves, as their current commitments are insufficient to prevent a dangerous average temperature rise of two degrees Celcius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
Shipping emits a bit more CO2 than Germany each year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the OECD Environment Directorate notes that the industry is poised to move up the ranks in coming years.
Prior to the COP21 meeting in Paris last year, some members of the industry expressed concern that regulation of CO2 from shipping would be passed to individual states rather than to the IMO, which would create an uneven playing field for vessels and shipowners. Ultimately, the COP21 treaty excluded shipping and left the industry's emissions to IMO to regulate. IMO will be present at COP22 to make sure that it continues to be recognized as "the appropriate international body to continue work to address greenhouse gas emissions from ships engaged in international trade."
At the latest meeting of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), member states voted to delay a final plan on CO2 regulation until 2023. IMO lauded the decision as a major step towards emissions regulation, but environmental organizations have generally panned it as a delaying action.
Olaf Merk, a shipping analyst for the OECD and an associate professor at the Urban School of Sciences Po Paris, believes that MEPC has moved slowly because it is isolated from the diplomatic pressures facing nation states in the COP talks.
"At the core is the systematic difficulty to regulate shipping in isolation from other societal interests. The same group dynamic and peer pressure to live up to a historic occasion that led 195 nations to agree to a 'well below two degrees' pathway for global warming in Paris, should have worked [at MEPC 69]," he writes. "[But] it was not the same political pressure cooker."
So far, there is no firm sign that shipping will be on the formal agenda at COP22. But Alastair Fischbacher, head of the industry group Sustainable Shipping Initiative, warned earlier in the year that "the shipping industry cannot go to COP22 in Morocco without [a CO2 plan]. Not only will it damage the industry’s reputation, it also runs the risk of external regulators taking the matter into their own hands and circumnavigating the IMO, which no-one in the industry wants to see."
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.