By Stephen Buranyi, reporting for DeSmogUK at the IMO in London.
Countries failed to take decisive action to limit the shipping industry’s greenhouse gas emissions at the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) annual marine environment protection meeting in London.
Gathering on Thursday, 21 April, countries lined up on either side of a proposal that would have the UN body set emissions targets for global shipping as early as 2017. Ultimately, the decision was pushed off until the next IMO marine environment protection committee (MEPC) meeting in October.
The proposal, submitted by The Marshall Islands, and initially backed by Belgium, France, Germany, Morocco, and the Solomon Islands, said it was the “right time” to determine shipping’s “fair share” in the fight against climate change.
Shipping and aviation were not covered by the Paris agreement, but the head of the IMO indicated that the group would take up the challenge of GHG emissions from ships during this meeting.
Blocked by BRIC?
But a group of powerful countries, including the entire BRIC group, want to delay any concrete emissions targets and continue with a plan that focuses on monitoring and evaluating CO2 data before any decisions are made.
The Chinese delegation said it was “too soon” for action. While Brazil claimed it was “too complex” to run talks about fair shares in parallel with the data collection work.
The plan to establish a monitoring and data collection plan before making any decision was proposed by the USA last year; they, too, continue to support the slower approach.
Countries including Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, however, voiced their support for more immediate action.
The Marshall Island proposal would have the IMO select a method to determine the shipping industry’s “share of emissions” by the MEPC meeting in 2017, and apply it the following year. The proposal quoted the Paris agreement at length, and urged the assembled delegates to support its goal of limiting warming to 1.5C.
Late Thursday afternoon, meeting Chairman Arsenio Dominguez suggested creating a working group specifically focused on GHG emissions for next year’s meeting as a compromise.
A group led by China, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia vociferously opposed him, with Colombia suggesting he was “making decisions in a personal capacity.”
The Nordic states, the UK, Canada, and some 30 other countries supported the working group.
The suggestion was further watered down to a working group next year that would discuss “all the documents and comments today.” Effectively delaying the debate for a further year.
The IMO has previously been criticised for failing to take action on shipping emissions, which account for some 3 percent of the global total. Mr Lim had hoped that the momentum of Paris would carry into this week’s meeting and deliver more concrete action.
The UNFCCC may end up intervening in the discussion in the future if the IMO remains unable to deliver action on climate change, however.
France, who co-sponsored the Marshall Islands proposal, warned the assembled delegates that the eyes of the world were on them. They noted that UNFCCC president Ségolène Royal was being given regular updates on the meeting.
“It is up to this organisation to establish a fair level of effort.” They said. “If we fail we will be judged impotent.”
Correction: This article originally stated that the decision would be delayed until next year. This has been corrected to October 2016 when the next meeting is set to take place.
Photo: IMO via Flickr