IMO agrees new climate plan for global shipping, but not 1.5°C aligned

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Environmental groups are deeply concerned by the IMO failure to firmly align global shipping with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature-warming limit, at the 80th Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 80) this week.

The IMO’s 175 member states failed to agree on absolute emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2040, but instead identified “indicative checkpoints” of at least 20%, striving for 30% emission reduction by 2030, and at least 70%, striving for 80% reduction by 2040. The strategy also aims to reach only net-zero “by or around, i.e. close to 2050”, depending on “national circumstances”.

While these targets are not strong enough to put shipping on a 1.5°C-aligned pathway set by the Paris Agreement, says NGO the Clean Shipping Alliance, this target remains within reach if national governments and regions now step up with their own measures to enforce lower emissions faster.

However, a global carbon price, supported by over 70 developing and developed countries, has been moved forward as an “economic measure” under the IMO’s basket of measures despite opposition from some countries.

The environmentalist lobby’s disappointment was perhaps best summed up by Rasmus Bjerring Larsen, shipping policy officer at Green Transition Denmark, who said: “Today’s deal is a significant but still inadequate step towards emissions free shipping. It is now clear that decarbonisation is coming to shipping, albeit too late. It is also clear that a broad majority of countries led by the Pacific Island states are ready for urgent climate action. So are progressive shipowners.

“In this light, it is a real disappointment that the IMO could not agree to phase out fossil fuels by 2050. It is now up to industry, progressive member states and regions such as the EU to push beyond what the IMO could agree to, and bring shipping in line with the 1.5 degrees target.”

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