September 24, 2023

Shipping agrees to net-zero target, but critics rebuke deal



The global shipping industry has agreed to reduce global warming gases to net zero by or around 2050, but critics say the deal is fatally flawed.

Ships produce about 3% of global CO2, but countries will need to bring this as close to zero as possible by the middle of the century.

Small island nations have welcomed the plan, but green groups are outraged.

They believe the strategy is toothless and will do little to limit rising temperatures.

The global shipping industry is critical to global trade which carries up to 90% of commercial goods. But that trade is highly polluting because some of the most carbon-rich fuels are used to power ships’ engines.

These dirty chimneys produce about the same amount of carbon as Germany every year.


Protesters greet delegates outside the IMO meeting in London

But maritime transport has proven difficult to regulate, as ships are often owned in one country but registered in another.

Small states like the Marshall Islands, Liberia and Panama have huge numbers of ships flying their national flags, but they have no real responsibility for these ships.

This complex arrangement meant that shipping was left out of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, when the world laid out a global plan to deal with rising temperatures.

In 2018, the shipping industry agreed to halve CO2 emissions by 2050, but this was considered by scientists to be totally inadequate.

Now, after mounting pressure from a coalition of countries including the UK, US and Pacific island nations, the delegates meeting in London have agreed on a new strategy that would bring emissions to zero “by or around” 2050.

Net-zero means that any remaining emissions will be canceled out by actively removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Wealthier countries and small island states had called for a 50% reduction by 2030 and a 96% reduction by 2040.

But with resistance from China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and others, the new strategy that will see “indicative checkpoints” rather than hard targets will aim to cut shipping emissions by at least 20% by 2030 and by at least 70% by 2030. % to drop. 2040.

For both checkpoints, the agreement says countries should “aim” for a higher target of 30% by 2030 and 80% by 2040.

“This result is far from perfect, but countries around the world came together and made it happen – and it gives us a chance of 1.5°C,” said Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s climate change minister.

Keeping the global temperature below 1.5°C is an important part of the Paris agreement and scientists agree that allowing the world to warm beyond this level would be very dangerous.

Industry voices have also welcomed the new deal, but with reservations.

“It is a notable improvement that the revised strategy now aims to achieve net-zero emissions by or around 2050, and the introduction of indicative emission reduction checkpoints in 2030 and 2040 sends an important signal to governments and industry,” said Johannah Christensen, CEO of the Global Maritime Forum.

“However, the revised strategy falls short of providing the necessary clarity and strong commitments for a just and equitable transition aligned with the Paris Agreement.”

Many environmental groups were highly critical of the new agreement, saying the new shipping plan would do very little to keep the world below that important temperature threshold.

“While the inclusion of 2030 and 2040 emissions reduction targets for shipping is not insignificant, this strategy will ensure that the shipping industry will use up its carbon budget of 1.5C by 2032,” said Madeline Rose of the Pacific Environment campaign group.

The new agreement also keeps alive the idea of ​​a carbon tax on shipping, which is strongly supported by developing countries, who believe this measure will be key to cutting emissions in decades to come.

“At the end of the day, it’s not the targets, but the incentives we’ve put in place to meet them. So in the Pacific, we’ll continue to push for a levy that takes us to zero emissions by 2050,” said Minister Regenvanu.

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