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EU pushes IMO to aim for zero carbon emissions


IMO secretary general Kitack Lim is being urged by Europe to back ambitious targets for carbon reductions
Photo: Harry Papachristou

The European Union voting bloc at the IMO will push regulators to agree to a minimum of 70% reduction target in shipping's carbon emissions by 2050, with the goal of eventually achieving a zero-carbon goal, or it will threaten to immediately introduce its own measures.
Sources told TradeWinds that the ambitious EU proposal was agreed at a meeting of member states ahead of next week's IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting, where a global target of carbon reduction is set to be agreed.
The tough EU stance was agreed despite opposition from the leading flag states of Greece, Cyprus and Malta.
The aim of the EU proposal to rid the industry of greenhouse gases in the next 32 years comes in a bid to push IMO member states away from a popular Japanese compromise deal that is targeting a commitment to reach a 50% reduction in emissions by 2060.
The Marshall Islands and other Pacific states affected by climate change have now joined the EU in pushing for carbon-free shipping by 2050.
The EU has calculated the Japanese proposal will be insufficient for the shipping industry to contribute enough towards achieving the goals laid out by governments in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Tristan Smith, an independent academic at University College London who has studied the shipping industry's emissions problems, backed the EU's position. He said he believes the Japanese proposal falls well short of what is required of shipping if the goals in the Paris Agreement are to be met.
Ready to act
The EU has a council meeting between 16 and 20 April — the week following the MEPC gathering — and sources close to Brussels suggest it may announce unilateral action, such as including shipping in its emissions trading scheme, if it is not happy with the outcome at the IMO.
The EU position has been further backed by a paper from the OECD that suggests the technology is available for shipping to reach zero carbon emissions by 2035.
The report "Decarbonising maritime transport: Pathways to zero carbon shipping by 2035" was put together by the International Transport Forum at the OECD.
The overview concluded that: "Maximum deployment of currently known technologies could make it possible to reach complete decarbonisation of the maritime industry by 2035."
"Alternative fuels and renewable energy can deliver much of the required reductions," the report claimed.
"Advanced biofuels are already available in limited quantities. Gradually, they should be complemented by other natural synthetic fuels such as methanol, ammonia and hydrogen."
The report also suggested there should be financial incentives and guidance from governments to encourage the change.
While the report implies the technology may be in place to achieve a carbon-free industry in practical terms, many believe it will be impossible to shift the whole shipping industry over to carbon-free fuels and advanced efficiency technology in less than 17 years without a mandatory instrument in place.