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IMO presents pathway to net-zero shipping at Bonn climate talks

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has outlined its latest progress and plans to decarbonize global shipping by or around 2050, in a submission to the Bonn Climate Conference.

The submission was made to the sixtieth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 60) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), taking place from 3 to 13 June 2024 in Bonn, Germany.

Presented by Mr. Camille Bourgeon, Technical Officer at the IMO’s Marine Environment Division, the document includes concrete actions being planned and undertaken to ensure the landmark 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from Ships is translated to legally binding regulations that apply to all ships and enforced globally.

Speaking at the opening plenary on 3 June, Mr. Bourgeon said: “IMO’s climate action is framed by the IMO Strategy on Reduction GHG Emissions from Ships, unanimously adopted by IMO Member States in July 2023… IMO Member States are actively working on transposing these collective commitments into mandatory requirements for ships under the MARPOL Convention [International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships].”

Timeline of action

IMO’s submission refers to the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy, which includes enhanced levels of ambition to reach net-zero GHG emissions from ships by or around, i.e., close to, 2050.

Indicative checkpoints have also been set for 2030 (to cut emissions from ships by at least 20%, striving for 30%) and 2040 (cut emissions by at least 70%, striving for 80%). It also cites the ambition of reaching a 5% uptake of zero-emission fuels by ships by 2030.

To achieve these targets, short-term, mid-term and long-term measures to reduce GHG emissions are being developed. Mandatory short-term measures entered into force in 2023, which require ships to comply with technical energy efficiency and carbon intensity requirements.

Proposed mid-term measures are currently being discussed by Member States, comprising of a marine fuel standard regulating the phased reduction of the marine fuel’s GHG intensity; and an economic element, on the basis of a maritime GHG emissions pricing mechanism.

Once finalized, these are set to be adopted in 2025, with entry into force expected in 2027.

In March, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee agreed to a draft outline of an “IMO net-zero framework” – a first step to incorporating these mid-term measures into international law.

At the same time, IMO is assessing the possible impacts of the candidate measures on States and fleets. An expert workshop will take place in London in September to consider preliminary findings of this comprehensive impact assessment, ahead of discussions by the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

Parallel actions

In addition to the development of a basket of candidate mid- and long-term GHG reduction measures, the submission outlined other related regulatory work streams which the IMO is advancing, including:

  • Life cycle GHG intensity assessment (LCA) of marine fuels – analysing the overall environmental footprints of marine fuels in a “well-to-wake” approach to ship emissions
  • Improving energy efficiency regulations – implementing and reviewing the short-term GHG reduction measures: Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI), enhanced Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) rating scheme.
  • Safety regulations for ships using new technologies and alternative fuels – developing draft interim guidelines for the safety of ships using hydrogen and ammonia as fuel. Guidelines for low flash-point fuels and mandatory instruments for methyl/ethyl alcohols and fuel cells are also envisaged.
  • Capacity-building and technical cooperation – supporting developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States and Least Developed
  • Countries, with the implementation of the IMO GHG Strategy through programmes, projects and partnerships.
  • The June Climate Change meeting in Bonn gathers parties to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change for technical discussions and negotiations ahead of the annual UN Climate Change Conference, to be held this year in Baku, Azerbaijan, from 11 to 22 November 2024.
    Source: IMO

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