ICS Makes Last Call for Decarbonization Research Fund at MEPC

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Published Nov 24, 2021 1:36 AM by The Maritime Executive

The push to decarbonize the shipping industry is facing a vote of confidence as top government officials from 174 countries converge in London, and the International Chamber of Shipping's proposed decarbonization fund is its main agenda.

This week, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is holding a critical meeting that will decide on whether to set up a $5 billion, 10-year research and development fund, paid for with a global $2 fee on each tonne of bunker fuel sold. 

Hot on the heels of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, the meeting is expected to address the pressing carbon emission reduction challenges facing international shipping. The ICS is calling the push for establishment of the IMO Maritime Research Fund (IMRF) the "first litmus test" for governments in their commitment to decarbonization following COP26.  

“If governments do not support the IMRF, we have to ask the question . . . why?” said Esben Poulsson, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Chairman. He added that the fund is a "no brainer" and is something governments should jump at to send a clear message to the world that they are serious about achieving their climate goals.

In Glasgow, some shipping stakeholders accused world governments of not doing enough to support investment in developing green technologies, suggesting that the absence of adequate research and development has been a major roadblock to the sector’s decarbonization bid.

ICS' fund would be used to boost technology readiness levels for zero-carbon fuels that can be used on large, ocean-going ships. If approved, the R&D fund is expected to be up and running by 2023. 

A proposal for the fund was first put forward in 2019 and it is now supported by major shipping nations, including Denmark, Greece, Japan, Panama, Singapore and the United Kingdom, plus developing nations such as Liberia, Nigeria and Palau, who collectively represent the majority of the world’s shipping. However, the IMRF still needs approval from the majority of governments attending the MEPC meeting in London for the mandatory R&D contribution system to be passed.

“The $5 billion fund provides governments with the opportunity to prove that their words have meaning, and they are serious about the transition to a zero-carbon sector,” said Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General.

Despite widespread calls during COP26 for global shipping to decarbonize completely by 2050, there are fears that some governments may raise procedural obstacles to the establishment of the fund, reflecting their national or regional interests.

Despite being responsible for 90 percent of global trade, the shipping industry is grappling with increasing criticism for being one of the biggest carbon emitters. The industry emits an estimated 1,080 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year - more than the emissions of Germany - and is responsible for about three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.