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IMO Negotiations on Shipping Emissions on Brink of Success: Saudi Arabia and the US the only Ones Officially Objecting to the Draft Text

IMO Negotiations on Shipping Emissions on Brink of Success: Saudi Arabia and the US the only Ones Officially Objecting to the Draft Text

After a four days of negotiations at the UN’s International Maritime Organisation in London this week, and a day before an historic decision to cut the global shipping sector’s greenhouse gases is due, calls for unity and consensus were made from both developing and developed countries around the world.

Out of 173 IMO member states, only two have “reserved their position” i.e. made an official objection to the draft text – Saudi Arabia and the US. All other member states from around the world are either openly or tacitly supporting the draft text, and its passage through to committee stage Friday.

Saudi Arabia and the US are now isolated; Argentina and Brazil had been vocally fighting the outright reduction target but have gone quiet in recent hours and did not reserve their position on the draft text, potentially paving the way for an agreement Friday which is traditionally done by consensus.

The draft text would see total shipping sector greenhouse gas emissions slashed by “at least” 50% by 2050, from 2008 levels, implying anywhere between 50% and 100%.This wording was crucial to keeping Pacific Island states delegations on board, many of whom were required by their governments to keep open full carbon neutrality by this date, as a condition of meeting the Paris Agreement temperature goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

The draft also commits to pursuing the phase out of emissions “on a pathway of CO2 emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals”.

The deal is expected to be finalised tomorrow.

Mrs Enemo Amaechi, Chief Legal Officer, Office of the APR-IMO, Nigeria High Commission: “Climate change is already having an impact on Nigeria – greenhouse gas emissions are a real threat. A 50% cut [in shipping sector CO2 emissions] by 2050 is ok. We know it will not be easy for us, in terms of the impact on trade, but we are ready to go ahead. It must be done.”
One Korean delegate, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “No delegations are fully satisfied today, but the adoption of the initial strategy [Friday] is very important. We support the draft text (of 50% cuts by 2050). We are going to fully support the reduction of maritime greenhouse gases.” There could be some benefit to Korean shipbuilders from stricter CO2 regulation, she added, as they were able to build more efficient vessels than some countries.

Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, Director General to the Department of Shipping, Government of Bangladesh: “We are one of the countries that will be adversely affected by climate change. We are guided by the Paris Agreement, and support environmental measures everywhere. We support the draft text (of 50% cuts by 2050).”

Honorable David Paul. Minister-in-Assistance-to-the-President and Environment, Republic of the Marshall Islands: “We are close to doing the climate deal of the year – but we are not there yet. If I am going to be able to go home and look the Marshallese people in the eyes and say that this deal keeps a pathway to survival open for us, then we need a historic emissions cap for the industry and quantifiable targets that add up to what we agreed in Paris and that allow us to urgently transition to net zero emissions. The next 24 hours are crucial. There is still a real risk that we could leave London with no deal – and as the world’s second biggest ship registry I’ve made it clear we’ll walk away from the deal if it doesn’t add up.”


International Chamber of Shipping, the leading industry association, made clear in a crucial intervention during the working group debate that it would support absolute reduction targets for the sector as mentioned in the draft text.This willingness for the industry to act reduced the credibility of countries arguing that any absolute reduction goal was unrealistic.

Olof Widen, senior advisor at the Finnish Shipowner’s Association: “The 2050 goal is achievable. We have in the pipeline some newbuilds that will use fuel cells. We will have business cases with that solution in the near future. A cruise vessel delivered in 2022 will have fuel cells for the main engine – the largest scale in shipping that has ever been deployed. When we have a critical mass of these solutions, then we will have a very rapid development.”

Fuel cells can be run on several different renewable fuels, he said, including methanol, hydrogen and ammonia.

(From a press briefing on Tuesday) Ms Jytte Guteland, Member of European Parliament, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament: “ Every sector needs to bear its responsibility. If we get no deal, or a deal that is too lame, it is a missed opportunity for the IMO to show its responsibility. Both the [European] Council and the Parliament have said if we don’t see real steps forward on a global scale by 2023, the EU needs to take action. But we don’t want to go down that road, we want the IMO to deliver. It’s about life and death, it’s about the world, it’s about countries going underwater.”
Source: GSCC