Online MEPC meeting battles through technical difficulties to approve initial set of short term measures as pressure builds to develop even more solutions to help shipping’s decarbonisation roadmap.
The IMO’s marine environmental protection committee has agreed to move forward with the short-term measures that have been proposed by its intercessional meeting participants, but not without a number of reservations and comments about the level of compromise that has been needed to find agreement.
The IMO agreed in 2018 on a initial strategy regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases and eventual decarbonisation of international shipping. To get that far in 2018 was seen by many as being remarkable given the lack of agreement on issues such as market-based measures and firm technological rules for the industry.
Following this 2018 agreement work began on what are now seen as short-term, mid-term and long-term measures.
It is these short-term measures (targeting existing ships), not the mid- and long-term solutions, that have been the subject of much of the debate within seven intercessional meetings between MEPC members. The outcomes have been discussed at the IMO’s MEPC meeting which is being held remotely under somewhat difficult conditions (shortened days, different time zones, and certain technical difficulties associated with digital events).
The outcome was less a set of strict measures (such as mandatory slow steaming) but a set indexes and a grading scheme that vessels will be encouraged to meet.
For those familiar with the energy efficiency design index for newbuilding’s (one of the two existing mandatory CO2 limiting measures on shipping) then the EEXI is something akin to that with a benchmark measure. The other measure of note is the Carbon Intensity Index which will become associated with an A to E grading scheme, something similar perhaps to what has been seen on some electrical appliances.
The complaint of some member states is the lack of hard limits agreed, with some countries and NGOs vocal about this compromise being greenwashing and unable to move shipping in the right direction.
A number of delegates taking part at the IMO did point out that given the need to compromise on the nature of the debate, and how action is needed now, the proposals to amend existing environmental rules were acceptable even while being a disappointment. Some pointed out the lack of time available to restart the talks again.
It was a “small step for shipping even if it was not a bit step for mankind” according to one delegate, even while some believed it to be too small a step.
There was however a push from member states as they commented on these short-term proposals to begin writing guidelines on how they should be implemented and with a belief they could be heightened or strengthened in due course.
Some member states also declaring funding for a scoping study into an impact assessment of the short term measures.
The International Association of Ports and Harbors has already indicated it may introduce the EEXI and CII into its existing incentive schemes under the Environmental Ship Index under the World Port Sustainability Program. Chartering groups have been using a similar grading scheme for a number of years.
There was also a call for work to begin immediately within intercessional meetings of the environmental protection committee on the mid- and long-term decarbonisation measures, especially with regard to a market-based measure which some see as the only way to effectively decarbonise shipping in the future.
The current set of short-term measures that have been discussed this week will need to be drafted and submitted for approval at the next MEPC in 2021 ahead of final adoption, which given the existing Covid restrictions has already lengthened the whole process.