The 13th intersessional GHG meeting of the IMO was never going to deliver big, but certain steps were expected. Here's a summary of how the discussions on the revised strategy look going into MEPC 79
An IMO meeting on how shipping can speed up its decarbonisation has inched the debate forward with whispers of a glimmer of hope amongst even some of the most ardent critics of the Organisation’s diplomatic process.
The 13th Intersessional working group on greenhouse gases has become a reasonably long-standing meeting that takes place between the main Marine Environment Protection Committee meetings and tackles some of the GHG topics that the main committee meeting fails to.
This is not a different set of people, and in fact many who have been in the room for the 13th will be in the committee room for MEPC 79, and likely go into a working group to further develop some of the work of this week’s intersessional. There’s likely two more intersessional meetings before now and MEPC 80 which is when the IMO member states, through those people in the meetings, really has to come up with agreement.
So here’s a short outline of what has been talked about, and certainly not agreed, when it comes to the revision of the initial strategy that everyone is talking about, and one can see the opinions are varied, with some states remaining vague in their suggested wording changes and others being more robust.
- A proposal for the CII to decline through the implementation of further phases of EEDI, and another to increase CII to 7% per annum.
- There are proposals to both add additional checkpoint date, notably 2040, and to amend those that exist (3020 and 2050). On one hand to reduce CO2 emissions per transport work, with figures of 40% and 60% listed by 2030, and 70% by 2050, and phasing them out as mentioned in the vision
- Another proposed text suggests the phrase GHG emissions should “lifecycle GHG emissions” and they reduce by at least 40% and to start declining in absolute terms, and by at least 40% by 2030, while another idea is that alternative fuels achieve a certain percentage by 2030 ( 5% or 35% of total energy used onboard), with other more vague texts suggesting ships with zero emission technologies, or halving ship climate impacts.
- Another checkpoint, 2040 has been put forward. With again a set of percentage reductions (50% or 75% in GHG emissions/CO2/lifecycle GHG/intensity)
- The 2050 date remains with suggestions that shipping’s GHG emissions (or lifecycle emissions) should peak, should be phased out, should fully decarbonise), or a “climate neutral fleet”. There is a suggestion that the IMO strategy should reference that the energy used by international shipping coming from renewable fuels reach at least 90% by 2050.
Equity of the transition takes up a number of comments and suggested texts. The differences then appear to grow over the ideas for mid and long term measures mid-term measures are measures to be finalized and agreed by the Committee between 2023 and 2025, or 2030, Dates of entry into force dependent on each measure individually seems to be a popular theme.
There’s unsurprising clear recognition that the line in the initial strategy about “certain mid- and long-term measures will require work to commence prior to 2023” should be removed as the date has passed.
- With the discussions at MEPC also proceeding with life cycle assessment guidelines, this should be referenced in the revised strategy too says one paper, (especially as other text suggestions point to reductions of lifecycle emissions rather than just ship emissions).
- There’s a paragraph being put forward on a basket of measures and their impact on states rather than a separate focus on short and mid term measures. This proposal from Marshal Islands and others does point to the short-term measures being potentially adjusted to reflect SIDs and LDC concerns, and any voluntary measures including under various national action plants (though not all states have NAPs)
- A market based measure namely a universal mandatory GHG levy applied to bunkers from 2025 and at $100 a tonne along with a global fuel standard (a co called command and control regulation) is also listed as a short term measure, though there is a separate discussion on this with many other suggestions on the way economics can influence shipping’s decarbonisation.
- The strategy moves through the amendments to the short term measures but notes are largely around the existing implementation of some of these measures and then into more detail on how the strategy moves to the candidate mid-term measures-
- On the one hand a paper focuses on national maritime action plans on the consideration of fuels, to more direct changes vis a vis the ideas around a market based or economic measure.
- Increased technical cooperation between member states is in this list, including the establishment of an IMO Green Corridors programme and how the ambitions of green corridors can be achieved.
- The proposed revision of the strategy also goes into detail on the impact of the measures whether short, mid or long term on member states, notably the LDCS and SIDS, including any barriers, support measurers and the work on capacity building and technical support.
This is likely why the first agenda item of the ISWG 13 was the impact assessment methodology as without this there will always be a fear from SIDS and LDCs that any measure may disproportionately impact them (a mulit-donor trust fund has been proposed and now endorsed in a recent IMO Council meeting).
A review of short term measures is to be completed within 3 years says one delegation paper, with an impact assessment of the basket of measurers in 2025
A 5th IMO GHG study is under discussion too to help provide some additional data clarity to the discussions, with possible publication in 2024.
Interestingly the proposed draft outcome paper from the intersessional meeting also includes a comprehensive list of what the IMO committee meetings have achieved in recent years, as well as 11 initiatives of the IMO secretariat to support member states strengthen their commitment to decarbonising shipping.