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Will the IMO deliver the climate deal of 2018?

04 April 2018 | Markets

It could be the climate agreement of the year.

In the coming two weeks 173 states at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will discuss what a greenhouse gas reduction plan for shipping first proposed back in 1997 could look like.

The idea is that an initial strategy including a long term target is agreed in 2018, followed by a more comprehensive set of measures and policies due by 2023.

Maritime carbon emissions are estimated to be 2-3% of the global total, but left unchecked that could spiral 250% by mid century, according to a 2014 study by the IMO.

So what do we know about this sector? – ?which carries around 80% of global trade?

Decarbonisation by 2035 is possible

So says the OECD in a report published in March 2018. What’s more, it’s achievable using current technologies, a finding that will surprise anyone used to listening to shipping executives moaning that none of this is possible before someone invents a magic fuel.

But some actions are needed now, says OECD. These include:

– A clear, ambitious emissions-reduction target to drive decarbonisation from IMO
– More research into zero carbon tech, more transparency from shipping lines on carbon footprints
– A carbon price for global shipping, leaving it to the market to allocate resources optimally
– Ports could differentiate fees based on environmental criteria
– Governments could also work with banks to incentivise green shipping

There’s a warning buried in the report too. Doing nothing means the sector will be emitting the equivalent to well over 200 coal power plants by 2035.

Decarbonisation has broad support

This week 44 countries announced their support for the Tony De Brum declaration on climate and shipping, which calls for an IMO deal this year to “set a level of ambition for the sector that is compatible with that of the Paris Agreement, including a peak on emissions in the short-term and then reducing them to neutrality towards the second half of this century.”

Signatories include the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Mexico, Peru and the Marshall Islands. Opinions differ on the scale of ambition. The Marshalls want complete decarbonisation by 2035, EU member states are suggesting 70–100% by 2050.

?Current efforts are not cutting it

The IMO’s current plan is a deal to ensure new ships are 30% more efficient by 2025, but this does little in bending shipping’s GHG curve towards keeping global warming well below 2C. A recent study for the Danish Shipowners Association estimated that the likely impact of this policy is only a 3% reduction in the sector’s total emissions between now and 2050.

And while the 30% figure sounds impressive, it’s lagging well behind the industry’s current performance. At least 60% of container ships, 50% of general cargo ships and 25% of tankers already meet IMO efficiency targets for 2020, as the graphic below from Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment illustrates.

Shipping pollution is a killer

That’s according to a 2018 study published in the journal Nature.

“Cleaner marine fuels will reduce ship-related premature mortality and morbidity by 34 and 54%, respectively, representing a ~ 2.6% global reduction in PM2.5 cardiovascular and lung cancer deaths and a ~3.6% global reduction in childhood asthma. Despite these reductions, low-sulphur marine fuels will still account for ~250k deaths and ~6.4 M childhood asthma cases annually, and more stringent standards beyond 2020 may provide additional health benefits.”

Technology is starting to shift the dial

According to the OECD, further efficiency improvements are still possible on existing hulls and propellers. Wind (yes?—?wind!) assistance has huge potential for a large number of ships in the fleet, to tap this free energy source.

Still, while energy demands per ship will therefore be lower, deep sea shipping will still need a renewable fuel given the potential of batteries over long distances are not yet proven.

Shipping is key to limiting warming to 1.5C

In 2015 countries agreed to try and limit warming to well below 2C and aim for 1.5C? – ?so far progress has been limited? – ?but what’s clear is that all sectors need to deliver. The 1.5C goal is important for small island states and other low lying countries, as Carbon Brief explains here:

“An extra 0.5C could see global sea levels rise 10cm more by 2100, water shortages in the Mediterranean double and tropical heatwaves last up to a month longer. The difference between 2C and 1.5C is also “likely to be decisive for the future of coral reefs”, with virtually all coral reefs at high risk of bleaching with 2C warming.”

Yet as this chart illustrates, not everyone is on board?—?least of all Japan and the International Chamber of Shipping. The key over the next two weeks will be?—?as ever?—?not what member states and lobby groups say in terms of framing “ambition”, but what they’re prepared to put on the table.

 

 

Source: Climate Change News