WHAT IS MEPC 72?
The landmark Paris Agreement of 2015 set the world on course for a carbon neutral economy by mid-century.
There’s just one piece of the puzzle missing – the global shipping industry.
The United Nations body responsible for this sector is the International Maritime Organization (IMO), based in London. This April, country representatives from around the world are gathering to strike a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. It is imperative that all countries act in the best long-term interests of their own citizens, and ensure that increasingly polluting shipping does not undermine the Paris Agreement.
What steps can I take?
French President Emmanuel Macron’s One Planet Summit in December saw 34 countries signing the Tony de Brum declaration – an urgent call for climate action in the shipping industry, named in honor of the late former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands. To date, a total of 44 countries have signed the declaration.
Governments can sign on and show they are serious about climate action, so the first step is to make sure your country is on the list. This is an “easy win” for countries to gain goodwill ahead of the climate negotiations at COP 24 in Poland in December.
During the Intersessional Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, April 3-6, also bear in mind:
Climate and shipping FAQs
Won’t a carbon deal for shipping hinder world trade, and hurt developing countries?
Ambitious climate action in the shipping sector will require co-operation by all Member States, just like the Paris Agreement did/does, yet a number of countries are trying to delay action or offer only token efforts at the IMO, most notably South American Member States. The concerns raised by these countries are not unreasonable and need to be considered, but they also need to be balanced in light of the urgent need to de-carbonize the sector which is currently not the case. If shipping blows the world’s carbon budget and we push past 1.5˚C to 2˚C of warming, developing countries will be first to pay the price, with catastrophic impacts on their economies, citizens' livelihoods, and infrastructure.
International shipping carries around 90% of world trade, and has made possible the last few decades of economic globalization, and its emissions currently represent a significant percentage of all pollution and are scheduled to jump dramatically over the next few years without intervention. The fact is that to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change, every sector needs to responsibly reduce its emissions. The shipping sector emits more greenhouse gases that nearly every country in the world – many of them developing countries that have constrained financial capacity to invest in large-scale systems change. It is simply not fair to ask developing countries to cut their emissions in stark outright terms, while vessels often ferrying consumer and lifestyle goods to the rich world continue to pump out climate-destabilizing gases.
Japan is one of the countries leading the debate on shipping emissions. However, their plan which calls for a 50% cut in emissions by 2060 is simply too little, too late. Locking in this low-ambition goal would risk shipping single handedly blowing the world’s carbon budget – the amount of carbon dioxide we can safely emit into the atmosphere before its warming effect pushes global temperatures above the crucial 1.5˚C and 2˚C degree thresholds. The shipping industry has a proud history of innovation stretching back centuries, and now has the chance to be at the cutting edge of progress once again.
Despite what you may have heard… rapidly decarbonizing - even to 100% in the next two decades - is technically feasible. The OECD’s transport research unit showed this is possible by the 2030s.
A little over 100 years ago, shipping began its revolutionary switch from steam (i.e. coal) to oil, led by the British Navy. Now the industry is called on to make another dramatic upgrade in its propulsion technology, and will rise to the challenge.
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