UN Shipping Agency Inches Towards 2030 Emission Reduction Goal

Date: December 9, 2022

This week’s round of technical talks at the UN’s maritime regulator showed countries are prepared to phase out shipping emissions by 2050. More crucially, support appears to be building for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to also adopt an ambitious 2030 interim target for cutting emissions from ships.

On the question of strengthening the 2050 Level of Ambition, a huge majority of
interventions by member states and industry bodies (34) were in favour of setting a zero
greenhouse gas emissions goal by this date, in addition to four interventions in favour of a
Net Zero target by this date. Only a small group of 10 member states opposed strengthening
the current 2050 target.

This is a hopeful development ahead of the 79th Marine Environment Protection Committee
(MEPC 79) meeting at the IMO on 12-16 December, where delegates are set to continue the
negotiations. However, what is urgently needed is a clear commitment to a 2030 short-term
absolute emissions ceiling and a 2040 deadline for shipping’s emissions, as the only way to
decarbonise the industry in line with the 1.5°C climate-heating limit set by the Paris

Acting on shipping’s 1 billion tonnes of annual emissions in the next few years is vital for
keeping the 1.5°C limit alive. Civil society groups demand the IMO commits to halving
emissions from ships by 2030 to reach zero by 2040. Immediate action on dangerous,
short-term pollutants released from vessels, such as black carbon and methane, can directly
eliminate more than 21% of shipping’s emissions already today.
The IMO’s 175 member states must use the growing momentum and rally behind
science-based targets at MEPC 79.

We welcome the statement of the IMO Secretary General that consensus is building towards
a substantial carbon price to raise the tens of billions per year needed to upgrade the sector
to zero carbon propulsion. However, it is vital that the IMO considers the needs of vulnerable
countries and communities, especially Small Island Developing states and Least Developed
Countries (SIDS and LDCs), when designing and implementing any future carbon pricing
measure. A levy of at least $100/tonne of carbon, in combination with a fuel standard, could
generate much-needed funding to drive the uptake of zero-emission solutions and to support
SIDS and LDCs in adapting to the climate crisis.

John Maggs, Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “The science is clear; shipping’s climate
impacts have to halve by 2030 to ensure warming stays below the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C
limit. But a strong absolute emission reduction target for 2030 is essential to send an
unambiguous signal to industry and investors that the race to decarbonise shipping has well
and truly started. Without that signal most will continue to sit on their hands while emissions
and temperatures rise and the climate crisis deepens.”

Delaine McCullough, Ocean Conservancy, said: “What took us by surprise at the IMO’s
technical deliberations this week was that countries started coalescing around the need for
ambitious interim emissions reduction targets. This is an encouraging sign and going into the
critical MEPC policy negotiations next week the IMO needs to build on this momentum to
come to agreements that can unlock essential investments that will keep industry emissions
in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. That means the IMO must commit to a 50%
emissions reduction target by 2030 in addition to reaching zero emissions ideally by 2040
and no later than 2050.”

Lucy Gilliam, Seas at Risk, said: “Every fraction of degree of heating matters in terms of
preventing cascading climate impacts from being triggered. Therefore, it’s absolutely
essential to have ambitious targets for climate action every step of the way if we are to avert
the climate hell that is currently forecast. This week we made some steps with proposals for
2030 targets and regular check points. Next week let’s prepare for some giant leaps! We
need a strong signal from the IMO to guide our voyage to zero.”

Sian Prior, Clean Arctic Alliance, said: “The IMO and its Members must not delay on
delivering the deep cuts to black carbon emissions from ships which are immediately
possible, and crucially they must integrate black carbon into all IMO climate measures,
including the carbon intensity indicator, so regulations target not just CO2 but CO2
equivalents (CO2e) including black carbon. It is essential that next week, MEPC 79 supports
the development of black carbon regulation.”

Daniele Rao, Carbon Market Watch, said: “More countries than ever before are on board
not only for setting a hard deadline for shipping’s decarbonisation but also for bringing
emissions down faster, earlier, and in a way that can benefit the most vulnerable.
Climate-ambitious countries must keep the drumbeat going next week on the 2030 target,
and⁠—if they are serious about just transition⁠—support the $100 carbon levy proposal by the
Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands.”

Jim Gamble, Pacific Environment, said: “It’s baffling that IMO member states are not
moving to rapidly reduce black carbon emissions from global shipping, and, in fact, are
prepared to delay including black carbon in the life cycle analysis of future fuels. The
reduction of black carbon is a relatively simple step that could happen virtually overnight,
and it is the measure that has the greatest potential to reduce warming from shipping in the
near term. This ‘low hanging fruit’ would be particularly significant for the Arctic where black
carbon represents the majority of shipping’s near term warming effect.”

The IMO is currently in the process of revising its existing climate strategy, which aims to
only halve emissions from ships by 2050. Delegates met in London for a round of technical
talks (ISWG-GHG-13) on 5-9 December, with the conclusions of this session being
submitted for further deliberations at MEPC 79 on 12-16 December. The strategy revision is
set to be concluded at MEPC 80 in 2023.

The regulator is also negotiating on a ‘basket’ of different measures to reduce emissions
from ships in the medium-term, including a carbon levy and a fuel standard.

This press release is issued by:
● John Maggs, Clean Shipping Coalition: [email protected]
● Delaine McCullough, Ocean Conservancy: [email protected]
● Lucy Gilliam, Seas At Risk: [email protected]
● Sian Prior, Clean Arctic Alliance: [email protected]
● Jim Gamble, Pacific Environment: [email protected]
● Daniele Rao, Carbon Market Watch: [email protected]