IMO: Shipping Emissions Showdown for Decade’s Biggest Climate Deal

IMO HQ London

London, June 29, 2023 – Delegates of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are gathering in London this week for preliminary talks to pave the way for a groundbreaking climate deal aimed at tackling shipping emissions. The success of the upcoming discussions rests heavily on the adoption of ambitious reduction targets.

The IMO, responsible for preventing shipping pollution, is under mounting pressure to address the colossal and ever-growing source of emissions from ocean-going vessels. With the aim of slashing pollution, the UN shipping agency is set to update its current target of halving shipping emissions by 2050. However, concerns arise regarding the agency’s willingness to embrace interim targets.

The talks this week are designed to build consensus among the IMO’s 175 member states ahead of the crucial Marine Environment Protection Committee session scheduled from July 3-7. If the IMO can agree on a deal that aligns closely with science-based targets for 2030, it could mark a significant climate agreement not only of the year but potentially the decade, as highlighted by John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition.

The shipping sector, responsible for approximately 3% of global carbon emissions, is seen as one of the most challenging industries to decarbonize due to the vast quantities of fossil fuels burned by ships each year. Without stringent measures, the IMO warns that shipping emissions could surge by up to 50% by the mid-century.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim stressed the need for increased ambition for 2050 and the establishment of intermediate checkpoints by 2030 and 2040. However, observers note that achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature threshold set by the Paris Agreement requires a 36% decarbonization target by 2030 and a 96% target by 2040, according to the Science Based Targets initiative. Unfortunately, aligning with this pathway is not the base-case scenario among IMO observers.

While some countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, are likely to resist calls for tougher climate targets, there is also a group of major developing nations, such as Argentina, Brazil, and India, who express concerns about their export markets. These nations appear supportive of the 2050 targets but are cautious about more immediate measures.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), representing over 80% of the global merchant fleet, has advised caution before committing to new targets, raising concerns among environmentalists. The ICS reaffirmed the industry’s commitment to meet net-zero carbon goals by 2050 but emphasized the need for careful consideration before signing up for additional targets.

The success of the talks hinges on whether a deal can be reached on more immediate targets. Immediate and substantial emissions reductions are crucial but controversial, as they require countries to take decisive action. The outcome remains uncertain, as the interests of different stakeholders and external pressures converge on the IMO, making it a critical climate negotiation event of the summer.

With immense political pressure preceding the summit, countries will be compelled to reach some form of agreement. All eyes are now on the interim targets, which will determine the fate of the negotiations. A failure in the ongoing technical talks could jeopardize the discussions scheduled for next week, causing further delays in addressing shipping emissions.

As the world watches closely, the outcome of this shipping emissions showdown has the potential to shape the course of climate action for years to come.

Source: IMO, CNBC

Source CNBC

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