Considering the lifetime of a modern vessel decisions have to be taken now. Photo: / drburtoni CC BY-NC-ND

IMO and ICAO fail to implement the Paris Agreement

International shipping emissions are not included in national targets, and, like international aviation, are the responsibility of the specialised UN agencies IMO and ICAO. Known to be very slow due to industry lobbying and concerns and trade impacts, many NGOs think that the main decisions about emission reductions for these economic sectors should be taken by, for example, the UNFCCC and the EU instead. Climate Action Network demands that the shipping (IMO) and aviation sectors (ICAO) should cut emissions of greenhouse gases to near zero by 2050 to contribute to reaching the target of the Paris Agreement. ICAO and IMO, each with responsibility for around 2–3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have failed to reach a decision on decarbonising the sectors in the next 20–30 years. IMO just plans to halve CO2 emissions by 2050, while ICAO has not adopted a long-term emissions reduction target.

The lifetime of a modern vessel is about 25–30 years, so decisions have to be taken and measures must be implemented starting now if the Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. The most important measure is to introduce alternative fuels for all new ships that are built and to retrofit the existing shipping fleet. Europe is just starting to take the first steps in electrifying shipping fleets, for example by electrifying coastal shipping along the Norwegian coast. Countries in the global South will need to get support to decarbonise shipping, say CAN and WWF.

Islands in the Pacific are demanding 500 million US dollars in support to make ocean shipping zero carbon in the Pacific region.

WWF International has three key demands to IMO:

  1. Commitment to strive for complete decarbonisation of the global shipping sector by 2050.
  2. Immediate pursuit of ambitious actions and medium-term emission reduction targets that put the sector on the path to decarbonisation.
  3. Consideration of measures to address demonstrable disproportionate impacts on developing countries, in particular least-developed countries and small island developing states, which do not undermine the ambition and environmental integrity of emission reduction targets and measures.

Mark Lutes from WWF says: “The technological solutions to decarbonizing the shipping sector are either currently available or visible on the horizon. The challenge now is to close the price gap to sustainable alternative fuels, and accelerate the deployment of zero carbon technologies over the coming decade. There is a growing call in the shipping sector to strive for full decarbonisation of the sector by 2050, and once again the most vulnerable and isolated countries are leading the charge.”

Many environmental NGOs are critical about ICAO decisions to develop a carbon offsetting scheme. Offsetting is widely considered a false solution because it does not lead to emission reductions but merely shifts emissions from one sector to another and at best it is a zero-sum game, they say.

Reinhold Pape



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