NGOs See "Baby Steps" Towards Climate Action at MEPC 78

Courtesy IMO

Published Jun 13, 2022 3:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

A coalition of the environmental NGOs that participate in IMO MEPC discussions has described the decisions made in last week's meeting "baby steps" towards addressing greenhouse gas emissions - long-overdue and encouraging, but short of climate action. 

The main milestone at MEPC 78, said six climate NGOs in a joint release, was the achievement of clear support from a majority of member states for strengthening IMO's climate goals. Most IMO members are now in favor of bringing shipping's emissions to "net zero" by 2050. 45 delegates took the floor to speak in favor of the 2050 net-zero shipping emissions target including the Cook Islands, Mexico, Myanmar, Colombia and Malaysia. This brings the total number of IMO states that appear to be supportive of the Paris Agreement's midcentury target to 50 so far. 

Delegates also expressed support for a "basket" of mid-term measures that would bring down emissions from shipping, to include - for the first time - a market-based measure like a carbon levy. Additional work group talks leading up to MEPC 79 will refine this concept, and expectations suggest a decision at MEPC 80 in 2023. However, the NGOs called on IMO to accelerate its pace, given how long it has waited to enact GHG regulations. 

“For technological and ecological transition in shipping, tomorrow matters more than next week. Therefore, the litmus for IMO progress should be judged by how much GHG it can cut or how much sustainable and scalable fuels it can drive in shipping in this decade," said Faig Abbasov, shipping director at Transport & Environment. "Any action that is short of that is only a smokescreen.”

The six NGOs called on IMO MEPC to intensify its ambitions further, raising the target to halving emissions by 2030 and cutting emissions altogether by 2040. To get there, they called for a strengthened and strictly enforceable CII set at seven percent annual improvement, as well as deep cuts in black carbon emissions. 

"States are now talking about ending ship climate emissions by 2050, but years of inaction mean that target is no longer good enough. A failure to act earlier means the shipping industry has already burnt a large part of its 1.5°C carbon budget," said John Maggs of the Clean Shipping Coalition. 

None of the NGOs expressed support for the industry-backed International Maritime Research Fund, a $2-per-tonne bunker levy which failed to pass at MEPC 77 and 78.