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11/16/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/16/2021 11:02

Cop 26 momentum could move GHG discussions at IMO

Momentum built during the UN Cop 26 climate summit could push the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to press on with discussions to accelerate decarbonisation in the shipping industry at its Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting next week.

IMO secretary general Kitack Lim, at an event on the sidelines of Cop 26, reiterated that decisions taken at IMO level are legally binding and enforced by the organisation's member states across the globe, and "not just pledges or aspirations". But he said decarbonising transport sector was urgently needed and the maritime sector had to play its part.

The IMO's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions strategy will be under consideration again at the MEPC on 22-26 November, and pressure is mounting for the IMO to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, and do more in terms of legislation. Its current target is for a 50pc reduction in overall GHG emissions by 2050 compared with 2008 levels, and for a 70pc cut in CO2 emissions over the same timeframe.

During Cop 26, the US and the EU openly voiced their disappointment at this, pointing at announcements made during the summit including the first movers coalition - a consortium of global companies committing to decarbonise traditionally hard-to-abate sectors.

Denmark and the US, on the first day of Cop 26, asked for the IMO to commit to zero emissions in shipping by 2050, rallying 12 other countries to strengthen efforts to meet this target at an IMO level in their declaration.

"Achieving net zero emissions in the next decades will be an enormous challenge, we can succeed as we have done in the past," Lim said, adding the outcome of Cop 26 would be "the driving force for the IMO to move forward".

European Commission director for mobility and transport Magda Kopczynska said there has been a positive change in approaches at the IMO, and more ambitious targets may come before 2023, the planned date for the revision of the IMO GHG strategy. But she said there are different interpretations as to what net zero means, and said the focus should be on measures to get to net zero, and not the political statements.

The IMO's Lim stressed that developing countries' needs should not be forgotten in IMO discussions. And the question of an equitable and fair transition is likely to be key during IMO negotiations, as it was during Cop 26 discussions. Talking about the assessment of the effect of the IMO's short-term GHG measures on states, Argentina's alternate permanent representative to the IMO Fernanda Millicay said it could lead to big losses in export revenues.

"In a country that has 20pc poverty, that is what is at stake for us," she said. "The cost of decarbonising shipping is a key concern, because it touches on the cost of trade."

A proposal for a levy of $100/t of CO2 equivalent on fuel oil by 2025 will also be under discussions at the IMO meeting next week, with questions over the share of the funds going to support developing countries and research and development in new technologies and clean fuels.

By Caroline Varin