Despite growing pressure from the UNFCCC and a strong push by the International Maritime Organisation’s Secretary General, the IMO has made little progress this week on developing measures to reduce GHG emissions from shipping.

A two-year work plan (see below) to develop "Market-Based Instruments" - either a fuel levy or an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - was watered down, after pressure from China, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, and European supporters of the scheme showed little appetite to fight for a more ambitious plan.

Twelve years after the Kyoto Protocol handed responsibility to IMO to address emissions from international shipping, the Organisation still has not adopted one single binding measure to do so. Global measures to reduce emissions, in the form of a levy or an ETS, have now been identified, but any decision to adopt either process will not be taken before 2012 at the earliest and could take a further 5-10 years to enter into force, so in practice it could be 2020 before the measure takes effect. By that time, shipping’s share of CO2 , if left unchecked, will have potentially doubled and could represent up to 6% of global CO2 emissions.

The meeting saw the conclusion of several years’ work on developing energy efficiency indices for the design of new vessels and the operation of existing ones, which could be used as very effective tools to make shipping more energy efficient. However, so far the IMO only intends to use these indices in voluntary trials. Any discussion this week of whether to make the measures mandatory was ruled out even before the meeting started.

This raises serious questions as to whether the Copenhagen process should reconfirm the IMO’s responsibility for shipping-related climate issues, and the organisation’s continued anchor-dragging also highlights the need for the EU to progress its own work on a regional European shipping scheme, similar to its policy on aviation.

 
 

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