“The world is watching us,” Kitack Lim told delegates attending the opening day of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) virtual meeting convened by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), one of the first big global green conferences to be held after COP26, the international climate summit, which took place in Glasgow earlier this month. Lim, the IMO’s secretary general, said: “COP 26 is still very fresh in our minds, emphasising that we are no longer considering climate change as it will impact future generations, but with the very real and present threat to our generations.”
Johannah Christensen, CEO of the Global Maritime Forum, a not-for-profit organisation that has helped coordinate many green shipping initiatives in recent years, had questioned in the run-up to this week’s IMO gathering whether the countries that had been “shipping climate heroes” at COP26 would remain so at MEPC. After day one of the five-day summit, the jury is out – much of the hope brought about in Glasgow suffered a deflating few hours at the virtual get-together yesterday.
Delegates discussed the Marshall Islands’ and Solomon Islands’ resolution proposal for zero emission shipping by 2050, a far stricter target than the current ambition which seeks 50% cuts based on a baseline set in 2008.
In the end, yesterday just eight countries supported the zero by 2050 resolution: Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Ukraine, the UK, the US, Vanuatu and Iceland.
A total of 31 countries – the EU27, Georgia, South Korea, Bahamas and Norway – supported the 2050 zero shipping emissions target, but not the resolution. Notably, several EU countries – Belgium, Finland, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary and Sweden – endorsed the Declaration on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050 at COP26, but yesterday failed to support a resolution at IMO to actually make that the goal for shipping.
The Slovenian delegation, which currently holds the European Union presidency, explained the European bloc’s position, arguing that with the limited time available for discussion on emissions at MEPC this week the key was action over words.
“We believe it is preferable to focus on efforts on concrete proposals rather than a resolution at least at this stage,” the Slovenian delegation stated. The European Union is also close to including shipping within its own emissions trading scheme.
Several countries spoke against the 2050 resolution and the 2050 zero-emission target yesterday, including Brazil, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
MEPC continues through to Friday evening.