IMO agrees strategy for cutting carbon dioxide emissions in shipping

Shipping industry joins effort to tackle climate change

Shipping industry joins effort to tackle climate change

"This is only the beginning of a long and arduous road to ensure that feasible and workable global measures are developed and implemented in a way that guarantees safety and a global level playing field, while minimising their potential impact on the growing world economy and increasing worldwide trade", Veniamis said.

Over 170 countries reached agreement on Friday (13 April) to reduce Carbon dioxide emissions from shipping by "at least" 50% on 2008 levels by 2050, ending years of slow progress.

The compromise plan to halve shipping emissions by 2050 leaves the door open to deeper cuts in the future, placing a strong emphasis on scaling up action to 100% by mid-century.

More than 170 countries have struck a deal to halve greenhouse gas emissions produced by global shipping by 2050 compared to levels seen ten years ago. The meeting was attended by more than 100 IMO Member States.

Shipping now accounts for around 2.5 percent of global GHG emissions, but this is expected to rise steeply, so that by 2050 it will account for 16 percent of the total carbon budget agreed by the 2015 Paris climate deal, believed to be what's required to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C.

But opposition from some countries - including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Panama - limited what could be achieved at the IMO session last week in London.

In a joint statement, European Commissioners Violeta Bulc and Miguel Arias Cañete welcomed the agreement as a "significant step forward" in efforts to combat global warming across the globe, although the EU had initially hoped for stronger commitments.

The landmark decision brings shipping in line with the aspirations of the Paris Agreement, it added.

"In the longer term, the shipping industry's ability to remain on the agreed GHG reduction pathway inevitably hinges upon the indispensable availability globally of alternative low or no carbon, safe fuels for the efficient operation of the world fleet".

Dr Tristan Smith, an energy and shipping reader at the UCL Energy Institute, said that the 2050 target is likely to be tightened even further in the future.

"We will work with fellow member states to ensure the shipping industry makes the transition to zero emissions ships as quickly as possible", she said.

"What happens next is crucial", said John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, an umbrella organisation of environmental NGOs.

Now that the initial strategy has been finalized, IMO will consider which, if any, of the short-term measures should be made mandatory.

Experts say that the compromise is not in keeping with the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celcius.

The strategy's targets are not binding, and the MEPC has characterised the document as a framework that demonstrates the level of ambition across the IMO's member states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A final IMO plan is not expected until 2023.