The UN's shipping body has settled on the main elements of an interim strategy aiming to decarbonise the sector, said a press release from Seas at Risk.
Over 170 countries meeting at the International Maritime Organisation in London had some substantive discussion on objectives and ways to decarbonise shipping resulting in a 7-step outline that now needs to be developed into an interim plan due in 2018.
One proposal calling for the shipping sector to adopt climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement and decarbonise by the second half of the century gained overwhelming expressions of support but failed to reach a consensus.
The meeting saw China and India voice strong support for alternative low carbon fuels, and a coalition of Pacific and European nations highlight the urgency of taking in-sector action. A number of countries with long lines of communication – among them Brazil
and Chile - voiced concerns about potentially negative impacts of reduction measures.
Shipping accounts for 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but a 2014 UN study predicts growth in trade could swell its carbon footprint 50-250% by 2050, blowing chances of limiting global warming to well below 2C, as targeted in the Paris Agreement.
The 7-step plan agreed this week will form the basis of the IMO’s first substantial attempt to tackle climate change, 20 years after first being requested to do so under the Kyoto Protocol.
When presented in early 2018 it should lay out a clear vision, a suite of short and medium term measures and quantified CO2 targets for the sectors.
John Maggs, senior policy advisor, Seas At Risk said "Some important progress has been made but if the process is to produce a fit for purpose initial strategy by 2018 then it needs to shift up a gear and start focussing on the core issue of how to cut ship emissions deeply in the short term".
Mike Halferty, Marshall Islands minister for transport & communications said: “We have made modest progress in IMO in the last two weeks towards agreeing, in 2018, an initial strategy for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from the international shipping sector."
Moses Mose, Solomon Islands ambassador to EU said: “We are encouraged that many countries share our interests and are willing to find common ground and a way forward on this issue. We must seize on this opportunity to produce tangible progress so that IMO has something credible to report to COP 24 in 2018.”
Bill Hemmings, Director shipping and aviation, Transport & Environment said: “Political differences over differentiation and potential costs of measures prevented substantive progress despite the very welcome presence of a strong delegation of Pacific Island nations so vulnerable to climate change calling for an ambitious reduction target and urgent measures."