The world may have missed an opportunity to address shipping emissions – News Block

youhe United Nations has long been a powerful force in the fight against climate change. But the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN agency assigned to regulate cruise ships, container ships and bulk carriers that operate on the high seas beyond the authority of any country, has been another story.

Global shipping is responsible for approximately 3% of global emissions. But in the run-up to the Paris Agreement in 2015, then-IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu told diplomats around the world that the sector should not be subject to any blanket emissions cap. “Such measures would artificially limit the ability of shipping to meet the demand created by the world economy,” he said. After pressure to tackle emissions intensified, member states of the group signed a 2018 deal that would aim to cut emissions in half by 2050, a significant step but still a long way from the complete decarbonization that scientists say it will be needed within three decades to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Now, at an IMO follow-up meeting this month aimed at reviewing shipping’s greenhouse gas strategy, international delegates agreed to tighten the sector’s lax emissions targets, though not as much as climate advocates say they would. needs. IMO members set a well-advised target to achieve net-zero emissions “around, that is, close to 2050, taking into account differing national circumstances.”

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The current IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim, described the agreement reached in London today as “monumental”. “It’s not the end goal,” he added. “It is, in many ways, a starting point for work that needs to be further intensified in the years and decades ahead.”

But many observers in the international climate community were furious about the result, saying the IMO has failed to align future emissions from the world’s ocean-going ships with the goals of the Paris Agreement, particularly as its agreement lacks a firm deadline for 2050. The targets will be discussed again in five years, but many environmentalists say by then it will be too late to change the sector’s emissions trajectory before 2050. Faïg Abbasov, director of the shipping program at European sustainability NGO Transport and Environment, called the deal a “vapid compromise.” “Aside from FIFA, it’s hard to think of an international organization more useless than IMO,” he said on Thursday, after a draft agreement was released.

Read more: We’re gonna need a greener boat

Still, the result could have been worse. Much of the IMO negotiations in recent weeks took place in small group sessions, making it difficult for some national delegations to hear their perspective. The body came close to agreeing to a weaker compromise, before a last-day push by delegations from small island states like Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands, supported by developed nations like the UK, managed to win concessions. of developing countries. Sea level rise caused by climate change is threatening the existence of these small island nations, while developing countries such as India and Brazil have historically opposed tougher emissions requirements for shipping, fearing that limits could harm their export-dependent economies.

One of the crucial points of contention in the negotiations was whether IMO’s new greenhouse gas strategy would include interim emissions targets for 2030 and 2040 before a final target for 2050. Climate advocates say those short-term targets term are essential to ensure that long-term objectives are actually achieved. They would also provide a clear market signal for international shipping companies to invest more in green technologies and production and distribution infrastructure for zero-emission fuels.

The IMO agreement does include new, shorter-term targets that would cut emissions 20-30% by 2030 and 70-80% by 2040. checkpoints.” They are also lower than what the Pacific Island countries and their bloc of supporters were pushing for: 37% emissions reduction in the sector by 2030 and a 96% reduction by 2040. That level of ambition would have kept the sector In the correct way. it contributes to keeping the global temperature increase at around 1.5°C. The upper limit of the targets that the IMO adopted, a 30% emissions cut by 2030 and an 80% cut by 2040, were only set thanks to a last-minute push by small island nations on July 6.

Some observers cited the change as a victory. Others were less positive about the result. “In typical IMO fashion, there were delaying tactics in the working groups, while the real inaction happened behind closed doors, where many (national delegations) were shut out until the last moment and faced with a near ultimatum,” said Lucy Gilliam. , Senior Shipping Policy Officer at European environmental NGO Seas at Risk. “The Pacific (states) got it back from the rim. But let’s clarify that this was not transparent, nor fair, nor equitable and it is reflected in the result achieved”.

Read more: The cruise industry is headed for climate disaster

The current deal will see shipping exceed its carbon budget to keep global temperatures below 1.5°C by 2032, according to the International Council on Clean Shipping. If the sector meets the 2030 and 2040 targets set out in the agreement, and indeed fully decarbonises by 2050, it can still stay on track to keep global temperature rise below 2°C.

Much depends on the actual enforcement measures that IMO agrees to and how strongly they are applied. Some options include mandates to use lower-emission fuels, emissions cap-and-trade systems, or direct taxes on carbon emissions. Details will be worked out over the course of the next year, with implementation taking place around 2026 or 2027. Climate advocates say IMO’s last-minute push by small island nations helped give them an edge in those negotiations, as the stronger halt-end targets could keep stricter emissions reduction policies on the table. “They were heroes this week,” says Delaine McCullough, shipping emissions campaign manager at the Ocean Conservancy. “There is no other way to describe them.”

Still, the ambiguous language around the targets has left plenty of room for negotiators to sidestep tough emissions policies. Individual nations could take matters into their own hands, implementing stricter emissions rules for shipping companies trying to use their ports. The EU, for example, adopted a policy last year that would force shippers to pay for emissions. Some environmentalists, however, say it would be better if the IMO implemented such financial schemes, since the international body could direct the funds generated by carbon levies towards the poorest nations that need the most help to adapt to climate change.

“There will be a big debate about where those revenues are distributed, and that is where the question of a fair and just transition will play out,” says McCullough. “It looks like (this week’s deal) is the end, but it really isn’t. It’s the starting gun.”

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