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T&E Urges Regional Decarbonization Rules to Bypass Ineffective IMO

regional decarbonization regulation
T&E says regional regulations focusing on per-voyage and destination could spur decarbonization efforts without the IMO

Published Nov 15, 2022 3:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The environmental NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) is calling for the developed countries which account for most of the global ocean trade to implement regional environmental standards focusing on emissions per voyage. Frustrated by the slow pace of the efforts by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and lack of clarity in global regulations as they are being applied to shipping, T&E reports that a regional approach would address the majority of the emissions and spur investment leaving it only for the IMO to codify global rules.

In a new analysis released by T&E, they are seeking to demonstrate “the huge impact that national regional policy can have on global decarbonization.” They point out that while it is no surprise that the three biggest economies, the EU, China, and the U.S., are responsible for the most amount of emissions they point to contributors ranging from Singapore with its large bunkering operations to other countries in Asia, and Brazil. The EU, China, and the U.S. only account for just over a third of global emissions, but instead measuring by destinations for the global fleet, T&E points out regional policy would address the majority of emissions.

“Together, China, Europe, and the U.S. could decarbonize 84 percent of the global shipping sector if they implemented a zero emission mandate for ships calling at their ports,” writes T&E. The group recognizes that the European Commission has proposed to regulate only 50 percent of emissions from international voyages, but even then, T&E reports if China and the U.S. implemented similar regional regulations a significant amount of emissions would be addressed. These three economies regulating 50 percent similar to the EC proposal would address 40 percent of emissions according to the report and it could be easily expanded from that base. In doing so they bypass the “ineffective” IMO says T&E.

“Efforts to decarbonize shipping at the IMO have so far been miserable. The need for consensus at the global level has brought us nowhere,” said Jacob Armstrong, sustainable shipping officer at T&E. “But there is a much easier way to do it. With the vast majority of ships passing through Europe, China, and the US, these leading economies can unilaterally regulate emissions without relying on the ineffective IMO.”

The report highlights the continuing rise of emissions from the shipping sector. They point to the success of other industries in adopting policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Shipping they say has however remained piecemeal in its approach and the IMO has so far only put forth what the group calls weak climate measures.

The NGO is urging all countries with the administrative capacity to decarbonize shipping to put in place measures to reduce their maritime emissions. They are calling for developed nations to urgently put in place per-voyage monitoring regulations for shipping emissions. With the countries enacting legislation covering at least half of the emissions from incoming and outgoing voyages, T&E says regional regulation would have a significant impact to achieve decarbonization.

They believe that the global approach would also lead to significant overall benefits for the industry. It would be effective in driving technical improvements writes T&E and it would encourage investment in zero-emission technology and fuels. The benefits they contend would spread globally through the shipping industry.

Once shipping decarbonization reaches critical mass through these regional efforts, the IMO would codify a global phase-out for emissions from shipping. At the same time, T&E also calls for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to clarify its guidance to state unambiguously that shipping is part of the Paris Agreement and instruct nations to report shipping emissions on a per-voyage basis.

With the vast majority of ships calling at ports in either the EU, China or the U.S. T&E concludes that these three economies could create a de facto global regulatory regime. T&E urges that they adopt measures including carbon markets, pollution taxes, energy efficiency targets, and zero-emission fuel standards.