IMO agrees historic, but diluted, climate strategy for road to net-zero

by | 10th July 2023 | The Naval Architect - News, Rules & Regulations

Home News IMO agrees historic, but diluted, climate strategy for road to net-zero

MEPC 80 concluded on Friday after nearly two weeks of talks. Source: IMO

By Tom Barlow-Brown

After heated talks delegates at the the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have finally agreed new goals aimed at tackling GHG emissions in shipping.  

The new policy was agreed by delegates of the organisations member states, and observer groups, at IMO’s headquarters in London last week on Friday, following two weeks of talks. 

The new strategy will be fundamental in bringing down the level of GHG emissions from the maritime industry. However, many critics feel the goals outlined fall well short of those many had wished for, especially those hoping it would fall more in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.  

Among the key points agreed under the revised strategy are the inclusion two indicative checkpoints which are set to reviewed every five years. Firstly, the aim is to reduce the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 20%, “striving for 30%” by 2030, and rising to 80% by 2040. The strategy also outlines goals for “zero or net-zero GHG emission technologies” to make up 10% of energy used by international shipping by 2030. In addition, the strategy sets a goal that GHG emissions should “peak as soon as possible” and reduce these to reach net zero by 2050. 

Kitack Lim

Kitack Lim will step down from his position of IMO Secretary General later this year

Outgoing Secretary General of IMO, Kitack Lim, called the adoption of the new strategy an “extraordinary show of cooperative spirit” and “a monumental development that I believe opens a new chapter towards maritime decarbonisation.” For many the GHG strategy is likely to be seen as his legacy after nearly 10 years at the helm of the organisation. 

Nonetheless, IMO failed to agree on what specific individual measures will be put in place to achieve the goals of reduce emissions from shipping, and the organisation plans to meet again in 2025 to discuss these. This has prompted some groups to voice concerns that this will already be too late.  

According to the International Council on Clean Transportation international shipping will exceed its current share of the 1.5°C carbon budget outlined in the Paris Agreement by 2032. Environmental groups have also expressed fears. Mark Luttes, head of the WWF delegation at IMO comments: “Disappointingly, the shipping industry regulator has left the sector with targets and measures off course for emissions reductions at the scale and pace needed.” 

A controversial ‘carbon-levy’ was also proposed at the start of talks earlier in the week. But this was left dead in the water after a memo was allegedly circulated claiming it would harm the economic growth of developing nations. Although IMO aims to revisit the subject at a later date several high profile member states, including China, Argentina and Brazil, have made known their opposition. 

During the course of the week talks also took place on the creation of special protected areas in the worlds oceans to safeguard marine life. Specifically in the rapidly warming polar regions, such as the Canadian Arctic, which is likely to see more ship traffic in coming years.  


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