Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) – 59th session: 13 – 17 July, 2009

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IMO environment meeting issues technical and operational measures to address GHG emissions from ships

Last week, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to disseminate a package of interim and voluntary technical and operational measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping; and also agreed a work plan for further consideration, at future meetings, of proposed market-based instruments to provide incentives for the shipping industry.

The agreed measures are intended to be used for trial purposes until the Committee’s sixtieth session (MEPC 60) in March 2010, when they will be refined, as necessary, with a view to facilitating decisions on their scope of application and enactment. The measures include:

* interim guidelines on the method of calculation, and voluntary verification, of the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships, which is intended to stimulate innovation and technical development of all the elements influencing the energy efficiency of a ship from its design phase; and

* guidance on the development of a Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, for new and existing ships, which incorporates best practices for the fuel efficient operation of ships; as well as guidelines for voluntary use of the Ship Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator for new and existing ships, which enables operators to measure the fuel efficiency of a ship.

Market-based instruments
The Committee held an in-depth discussion on market-based instruments and agreed a work plan for its further consideration of the topic, as of its next session (MEPC 60, March 2010), to build on discussions and submissions to date, taking into account also relevant outcomes of the climate change conference (COP 15) that the United Nations is to convene in Copenhagen in December 2009. Such instruments would have purposes such as: climate change mitigation and adaptation activities; research and development; offsetting of emissions; and serving as an incentive for the industry to invest in more fuel-efficient technologies.

The Committee noted that there was a general preference for the greater part of any funds generated by a market-based instrument under the auspices of IMO to be used for climate change purposes in developing countries through existing or new funding mechanisms under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or other international organizations.

Report to COP 15
The outcome of the MEPC on GHG emissions from ships will be reported to COP 15, which will consider a successor instrument to the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC.

The Committee agreed that any regulatory scheme applied to GHG emissions from international shipping should be developed and enacted by IMO as the most competent international body.

Speaking at the close of the MEPC, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos congratulated delegates for driving forward the Committee’s agreed action plan on greenhouse gas emissions from ships, which “deserves to be recognized as compelling proof that IMO can, indeed, be entrusted with the regulation of international shipping on the issue of climatic change – an unequivocal message that needs to be heard, and fully understood, all over the globe. He went on to urge delegates to promote the successful outcome of the session, by briefing their colleagues and, through them, the competent Ministers in their home countries (e.g. of Transport, Mercantile Marine, Environment and Foreign Affairs), in particular those who will participate in COP 15, and by publicizing it widely among all concerned so that “the complexities of this most international of all industries are duly taken into account when shaping official policies and positions on the issue at hand – both at Copenhagen and at the post-Copenhagen rounds of consultations at IMO.”

Mr. Mitropoulos reiterated his belief that “the time for apportioning blame as to who is responsible for the state of the planet has passed. Now it is time for action. Developed and developing countries, industrialized and emerging economies alike are left with no option other than to get together and, together, work out solutions that will serve well the good cause of reversing the route to planet destruction.”

Greenhouse gas study 2009
The MEPC was assisted in its deliberations by the outcome of the Second IMO GHG Study on greenhouse gas emissions from ships, 2009, which is the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from ships engaged in international trade.

The Study estimated that ships engaged in international trade in 2007 contributed about 2.7 per cent of the world’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions and also states that emission reductions are feasible through technical and operational measures as well as through the introduction of market-based reduction mechanisms.

In the absence of global policies to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, the emissions may increase by between 150 and 250 percent by the year 2050 due to the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade.

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