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‘Progressive’ Shippers Call for Climate Target from International Maritime Body

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A coalition of maritime shippers and their organizations is calling on governments to adopt “ambitious” climate targets at a meeting in London this week, now that an agreement on aviation emissions [2] has left shipping as the only sector in the world not bound by some form of climate agreement.

“It is time to recognize the important role which the global shipping industry must play in holding global temperatures well below 2°C,” the shippers wrote in a letter to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). “Shipping’s emissions are expected to substantially increase over the coming years. To curb this trajectory, IMO countries must demonstrate that they can match the ambition and pace of the UN climate body, the UNFCCC,” the agency behind the Paris Agreement.

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Shipping emissions currently stand at about 1,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide per year, compared to 781 MT from aviation, and “are forecast to rise to nearly 17% of the world’s total over the next 30 years if left unregulated,” The Guardian reports.

“The IMO and the industry needs to act fast,” a spokesperson for Brussels-based Transport & Environment told The Guardian’s John Vidal. “Shipping emissions are forecast to rise by 50 to 250% by 2050 if unchecked. The IMO sticks out like a sore thumb.”

During the IMO meeting, “progressive” shippers will have to overcome opposition from developing countries with major shipping interests, as well as lobbying by fossil industries and other trade associations, The Guardian notes. “Led by China, Brazil, and some small island states like the Cook Islands, one group has argued in IMO meetings that because shipping is a truly international industry, it cannot be regulated in the same way as countries, and must not be rushed into cuts,” Vidal notes. “It says the world’s 100,000 big ships have already reduced emissions considerably, but more data and analysis is needed.”

Until those systems are in place, argues a group led by the Baltic and International Maritime Council, “there is insufficient data to determine whether or not it would be realistic for IMO to adopt a firm contribution on behalf of the sector.”

According to documents obtained by The Guardian, the Cook Islands reversed position on climate change at the Paris conference last year, to lead opposition to shipping industry emission cuts.“Shipping must be profitable and has to keep growing to survive,” the country’s negotiator stated. “Any notion on imposing a system that would increase transport cost and availability of freight even further would be extremely detrimental to least developed countries and small island developing states, and severely impact on our economic security while inhibiting growth and development potential.”