The Power of the Paris Agreement is in the Market Place

Paris Signing
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses with three of the speakers who addressed the opening segment of the signature ceremony. From left: Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (from Chad), civil society representative; U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCapr

By Wendy Laursen 2016-04-25 19:25:36

In an extraordinary show of support for the Paris climate agreement adopted last December, 175 countries, including the U.S. and China, signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at a ceremony at U.N. Headquarters last week. The number far exceeded the historical record for first-day signatures to an international agreement.

During the signing ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, pointed directly to the private sector for action.

“Paris was a turning point in the fight against climate change,” he said. “For sure, the agreement that we reached in Paris is the strongest, most ambitious global climate pact ever negotiated. But the power of this agreement is not that it, in and of itself, guarantees that we will actually hold the increase of temperature to the target of 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees centigrade. In fact, it does not and we know that, we acknowledge it.  

“The power of this agreement is the opportunity that it creates. The power is the message that it sends to the marketplace. It is the unmistakable signal that innovation, entrepreneurial activity, the allocation of capital, the decisions that governments make, all of this is what we now know definitively is what is going to define the new energy future – a future that is already being defined but even yet to be discovered. The power of this agreement is what it is going to do to unleash the private sector, and it is already doing to set in pace the global economy on a new path for smart, responsible, sustainable development.”

IMO: Ships to Report Emissions

The signing coincided with the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC69) which highlighted the shipping industry’s path for smart, responsible sustainable development. MEPC69 did not see the adoption of a proposal to work towards greenhouse gas regulation, but it did approve a measure requiring ships over 5,000 gross tons to report fuel consumption (and therefore CO2 emissions) to their flag states.

The flag state will determine whether the data has been reported in accordance with the requirements, and if so, it will issue a Statement of Compliance to the ship. Flag states will be required to transfer this data to an IMO Ship Fuel Consumption Database.

“It has been very encouraging to see states which had previously found it difficult to reach binding agreement on climate change measures bring the spirit of the Paris Agreement to IMO this week,” said Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General. “The unanimous agreement to take forward a mandatory data collection system for ships’ fuel consumption is a significant step. It will provide a solid basis on which to consider, armed with information, whether further measures may be required in future to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.”

European shipowners welcomed the progress. “It is very positive that IMO Member States have been able to agree on these steps in the wake of the Paris agreement on climate change”, said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “It confirms the unique leadership of IMO to tackle the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from our industry. We are especially pleased that under the global data collection system reporting of CO2 emissions will be mandatory.”
The next MEPC meeting in October will formalise the required amendment to the MARPOL Convention. The next meeting will also continue work on the CO2 reduction commitments of shipping. ECSA particularly supports the proposal of its international partner ICS (International Chamber of Shipping) to develop an ‘Intended IMO Determined Contribution’ for CO2 reduction on behalf of the sector. This would mirror the commitments or Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) which governments have made for their national economies, but from which international transport is currently excluded.
“An Intended IMO Determined Contribution would make IMO Member States and the shipping industry answerable to the international community, in the same way that governments are committed to INDCs”, said Verhoeven. “A work plan must now be elaborated, which includes the methodology used to define the contribution, the reference years, the long-term objective and the intermediary steps, all according to a clear timetable.”

SSI Sees Failure

However, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), a coalition of companies from across the global shipping industry, believes that MEPC 69 failed to achieve the required minimum outcome.
Before MEPC 69, the SSI, as well as many other member states and industry bodies, called for an agreement on a process that would lead to the setting of an ambitious but realistic framework that would see the shipping industry contribute to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the targets agreed in Paris in 2015 (COP 21.)
While the issue of greenhouse emissions reduction will continue at MEPC 70 in October 2016, the SSI believes the lack of action increases the perception of shipping as an industry that is not willing to contribute to global reduction targets.  This threatens the shipping industry’s reputation and increases the chance of reduction targets being mandated outside of the regulatory framework of the IMO.
Alastair Fischbacher, CEO, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, says the results of the mandatory data collection system agreed at MEPC 69 will not be available for a number of years yet, potentially delaying the action required and increasing the stringency of measures that will be needed.   

Fischbacher said: “The IMO’s 2014 greenhouse gas study was conclusive that on a business as usual scenario, shipping will increase its greenhouse gas emissions output by up to 250 percent or nearly three billion tonnes by 2050. We must move on from the debate about collecting data and the shipping industry’s impact on the environment and using this as a reason to delay action. While developing a robust data collection is an important part, the IMO must actually demonstrate commitment to drive progressive change and take responsibility with the rest of the world in meeting global warming reduction targets.”

Keeping an Eye on Emissions

Meanwhile, researchers at UCL Energy Institute in the UK have used a methodology they developed for the 2014 IMO greenhouse gas study combined with AIS data to estimate emissions from five different ship types and displayed it in a new interactive map that plots 250 million data points to show the movements of the world’s commercial shipping fleet over the course of the year 2012.

The researchers took AIS data showing location and speed of ships and cross-checked it with another database on vessel characteristics, such as engine type and hull measurements. Using this information, they were able to compute the CO2 emissions for each observed hour.
For each ship type as well as for the entire global fleet, the map displays the freight carried and CO2 emitted by the ships. Emissions from international shipping for 2012 were estimated to be 796 million tonnes CO2 which is more than the whole of the U.K., Canada or Brazil emit in a year. This number can be further broken down into 2.18 million tonnes CO2 per day or 90,868 tonnes CO2 per hour.   

The map also clearly shows the most crucial shipping thoroughfares of all: the canals linking different bodies of water, such as the Panama Canal, opened a century ago to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, and the even older and busier Suez Canal which saw 17,000 transits in 2012 alone. 

Panama Canal’s Emission Reduction Initiatives

The Panama Canal participated as a part of the Panamanian delegation at MEPC 69 and shared a statement highlighting the importance of the Panama Canal route helping in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by vessels using the waterway. 

The Panama Canal Expansion will allow greater capacity vessels to transit, which will require fewer cargo movements, therefore reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Once inaugurated on June 26, 2016, the Expanded Canal will reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 160 million tons in the first 10 years of operation.

The Panama Canal will implement a module of CO2 emissions offered to the maritime industry. This module will calculate and report the CO2 emissions of global trade routes, helping shipping organizations and shippers identify the cost variables and environmental factors of each route. 

The Panama Canal will hold a draw on Friday, April 29, to select the first vessel which will transit through the Expanded Canal when it is inaugurated on Sunday, June 26.