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MEPC 77: For climate progress, shipping needs action from IMO member states on concrete initiatives

During COP26 it was encouraging to see the maritime sector being included in the discussion between governments. International liner shipping companies, who for some time have been taking the lead when it comes to commitments as well as investments in actual technology development, were at the fore in Glasgow calling for government action. Some promising coalitions and declarations were launched and going into the IMO MEPC 77 this week there was a positive undercurrent.

It is then all the more disappointing to watch the same governments that were making lofty statements at COP26 just days ago, again fail to walk the talk when it comes to real action at the IMO.

“The goal for liner shipping is clear: move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The people of the world depend on trade, and we must make efficient trade possible without the climate impact of today – the sooner the better. It is a moral imperative, keenly felt by us working in the industry, as much as it is what our customers and investors demand.

Our challenge as a hard-to-abate sector is that the technology and fuels needed for a transition to zero are not yet available. We see the direction, and now need to drive progress towards a tipping point where the technologies for zero-GHG shipping can be applied and a clear demand picture can drive availability of and infrastructure for alternative fuels. That is why IMO member countries inexplicable stalling around the IMRB/IMRF is so dangerous. We can talk all we want about the ambitions for 2050, but unless we put initiatives to drive real progress in place, we are not going to get there,” says John Butler, President & CEO of World Shipping Council (WSC).

WSC members are among the carriers exploring and investing in alternative technologies and solutions, but this will not be enough to change the entire industry. It also risks leaving some countries, sectors, and companies behind. A global industry is dependent on global infrastructures and global market-based measures to drive change.

“Our appeal to political leaders and regulators is to not get stuck in a cycle of ambition bidding, but to take action for inclusive change in the shipping industry. Whilst we are disappointed there was no decision, the MEPC 77 saw a notable increase in the number of nations supporting the establishment of an industry-financed research fund, pushing USD 5 billion into R&D towards zero-GHG technologies that will be available to all nations. The initiative is ready to launch, has support from the Green Climate Fund, and we will keep supporting member nations working for a positive resolution at MEPC 78,” continues John Butler.

With the IMRB/IMRF established zero-GHG vessels can be on the water by the early 2030s. With technologies in place, progress has the potential to be quick, especially with market-based measures to help the adoption of zero-GHG technologies and ensure the availability of well-to-wake zero-GHG alternative fuels.

“Debating ambitious targets for far-away deadlines avoids the more difficult discussions on discrete actions to be undertaken and should not be mistaken for actual progress. We need the political establishment to move from targets to action,” John Butler concludes.
Source: World Shipping Council

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