Global Maritime Regulator Touts Contended Decarbonization Plan

Maritime & Ports

Source: Hellenic Shipping News, 2021-06-07

The head of the International Maritime Organisation expects a key panel to adopt a blueprint on reducing carbon emissions at a meeting on 10 June as the global marine regulator faces rising pressure from governments and from within its own ranks over environmental goals.

The plan includes measurements of energy efficiency and of what the IMO, an arm of the United Nations, calls the carbon-intensity of oceangoing vessels. The provisions don’t include specific targets for reducing carbon emissions, effectively postponing until 2023 any consideration of more specific plans to slash emissions in half by 2050 compared with 2008 levels.

The IMO plan does, however, include a requirement to measure how much pollution a ship emits and rate its performance. The idea would be to push shipowners to improve their fleets’ carbon-intensity by at least 40% by 2030. Carbon-intensity is a measure of the CO2 emissions of a ship linked to the volume of cargo moved over a voyage.

“We will adopt a series of verified steps that will take us to the 2030 target,” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said in a telephone interview. “I’m excited to see this. Despite arguments, especially from developing countries, all member states have agreed to meet the goal.”

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee will meet from 10 to 17 June to set the next step in a yearslong effort on cutting pollution in the shipping sector, which contributes around 2.5% of all global greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the IMO.

The meeting comes as operators of oceangoing vessels face growing pressure to enact tougher environmental measures. The European Union is pressing for ambitious emissions-reduction targets, and policy makers there are considering adding shipping to the bloc’s carbon-trading market.

Denmark’s A.P. Moller Maersk A/S, the world’s biggest container ship operator by capacity, is proposing a carbon levy of at least $150 per ton of CO2 emitted as a prod to move ship operators toward carbon-neutral fuels.

Several IMO member nations, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile and a host of African nations, want lighter targets. They argue the research on cleaner-burning fuels remains inconclusive, and that any rapid shift in industry operations would be costly and harm their economies by making food and commodity exports more expensive.

Vessels have burned heavy oil, the world’s dirtiest propulsion fuel, since early in the 20th century, and operators have sailed around unclear rules on who enforces climate protection in international waters, which fall beyond the purview of national governments.

The US and the European Union have been pushing for more ambitious goals than those laid out in the plan. IMO officials say the strategy will be reviewed after the changes go into effect in January 2023 using data that is already being collected.

Representatives from several IMO member states say there are sharp differences on the plan and its targets.

“The entire IMO plan is complicated, and it’s doubtful whether the targets can be achieved,” said a South American IMO delegate, who as all IMO delegates, is not authorised to speak on the record. “We all want clean air, but the Southern Hemisphere lives on its exports and it all adds up to higher costs. That can’t be right.”

But an IMO representative from a Northern European country said carbon-intensity is a convoluted measure because as more ships join the global fleet, CO2 emissions will also increase. This country prefers a 50% reduction in carbon-intensity, he said.

“We will push for higher targets and more clarity in 2023,” the representative said, acknowledging that “reconciling a more ambitious target with bigger fleets will be difficult.”

Shipping services provider Clarkson Research Services Ltd. estimates it might cost the industry more than $3tn for ships to switch to new forms of power.

The concerns over costs are legitimate, said Mr. Lim, the IMO Secretary-General. But there is wide consensus from ship operators, commodity traders and energy companies on the need to move forward, he added.

“If you compare a few years ago with today, the climate-change debate is totally different,” he said. “Now nobody says ‘no’ and everybody is supporting the effort.”

The proposed IMO steps include a so-called energy-efficiency ship index that will measure a vessel’s fuel efficiency compared with a baseline.

Another step in the plan would be to score ships on their carbon-intensity and their progress in improving, with unspecified penalties for those ships that don’t show any progress. Beginning in 2024, the ratings would be reviewed annually and look at 30,000 vessels of at least 5,000 metric gross tons that together account for around 85% of the CO2 emissions of international shipping.

The new regulation would be enforced by flag states and reviewed by ship-classification societies.

The introduction of alternatives to fossil fuels is expected to cut fleets’ carbon emissions, but at next week’s meeting IMO members will also look into other ways to cut CO2 levels over the next decade. Among those ideas are ship-speed optimisation, advanced propellers and special paints for the hull that allow a vessel to slide through the water with less friction.
Source: Wall Street Journal

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