A meeting in London this week will be the last chance for the IMO to agree on GHG emission mitigation ahead of the crucial UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

In the 12 years since the Kyoto protocol was established, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has not enacted a single measure to tackle climate change from international shipping.

 

A meeting in London this week will be the last chance for the IMO to agree on GHG emission mitigation ahead of the crucial UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

In the 12 years since the Kyoto protocol was established, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has not enacted a single measure to tackle climate change from international shipping. Since 1997, CO2 emissions from international shipping have grown by over 100% and now total 870 million tonnes per annum or 2.7% of global CO2 emissions; this equates to more than the entire current carbon emissions of the UK, Germany or Canada. If shipping emissions continue unabated, it is estimated that they will represent 6% of global CO2 emissions in 2020 and up to 50% of the global greenhouse gas budget in 2050.

Next week’s meeting is the IMO’s last chance to take action before the Kyoto provisions are revised at Copenhagen in December. If action is not forthcoming, NGOs will press for Copenhagen to set emission reduction targets for international shipping: 40% below 1990 levels by 2020; and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and for discussions to be transferred to the UNFCCC, the body that deals with climate change.

The need to address shipping emissions is too urgent to be left in the hands of the IMO, who have consistently stalled when they need to take real action. We cannot risk another decade of delay. If the IMO cannot make real commitments to cut emissions, and back this up with action, then it is time for the UNFCCC to step in.

The IMO has been discussing possible measures to reduce emissions including emission trading or a levy; an emissions standard for new and existing ships; as well as operational measures to reduce emissions. However, developed and developing countries are split over who should participate. Developed countries insist that shipping is a global industry and any scheme must cover everyone, while poorer countries point to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” applied in climate negotiations and insist that only developed countries should be covered.

One way out of the current deadlock is for every country to participate in a global shipping scheme, but for the revenues generated by a levy on fuel, or by auctioning emissions permits to go exclusively towards helping developing countries to fight climate change. That way, poorer nations will ultimately receive more than they pay in, but for such an offer to be credible, rich countries must show that they are willing to transfer this money and not keep it to plug budget deficits at home. Developed countries have long argued that the emissions belong to no individual country - they can’t now lay claim to the proceeds of any levy on those emissions. The least IMO can do at this session is pass a resolution guaranteeing the revenues will go to developing countries.

 

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