IMO greenhouse gas talks creep forward, but not all on the journey yet

The 14th week or Intercessional talks may not have created headlines but it helped bring more member states into agreement that action is needed. Not all are there yet.

The latest IMO meeting focused on shaping the strategy and policy tools that it can use to decarbonise shipping met last week. It was not expected to make many inroads into differences of levels of ambition, nor did it.


The member states of the International Maritime Organization sent delegates to London for the 14th five day long “Intercessional meeting of the working group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships” to discuss some of the crucial, and politically and diplomatically, gruelling decisions that it needs to make to be seen as acting on decarbonising shipping.


The report of the WG14 on Its progress has large amount diplomatic square brackets, the equivalent of not being in agreement even at the point of drafting, showing how many differences still exist.


These intercessional meetings have been arranged in between the main marine environmental protection committee (MEPC) meetings of the IMO to try and move the needle and get member states to agree on a number of sticking points such as what a renewed strategy to decarbonise shipping should look like, what levels of commitment can be agreed, the issue of how fuel emissions should be assessed (well-to-wake/tank-to-wake and the life cycle analysis).


This was the last intercessional before MEPC 80 in early July, and with nothing final being decided an ad-hoc expert workshop to do a comparative analysis of candidate mid-term measures has now been agreed upon to try and find something tangible by that date. It seems however the different levels of ambition about what can be achieved in our lifetimes still exist with some countries instructing their delegates to take a more cautious view in line with their more wider national policies. Some of this is lined to capabilities and capacities.


The intercessional meetings have been focused on some key points about shipping’s decarbonisation. First the renewed strategy given the agreement that the initial strategy was not sufficient for long term goals, and then the mid term and long term measures that would need to be deployed.


The member states have, according to some who are in the discussions, been more positive, saying there are some more positive signals, This next ad hoc working group which aims to look at the next set of co-called mid term and long term measures will certainly see if this is true. Shipping needs MEPC 80 in July to show the world that it can be positive about climate change responses, even though it takes it to the eleventh hour, but in diplomatic circles this is not unusual.  

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