We have a deal. But is it a good one?

The outcome of the 72nd Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC72) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) last week was acclaimed as a success for the organisation. But was it? The IMO meeting agreed to reduce shipping emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

This outcome, though less ambitious than what the Pacific would have liked, and what we need to save our Pacific peoples and their livelihoods, is a step in the right direction. It sends a signal to the industry that they need to make the changes necessary to move the maritime shipping sector towards eventual zero emissions. There is therefore a need for increased research in the use of renewable energy in shipping and zero carbon fuels and development of better efficiency ship designs.

The delegates from the Pacific Island nations at the MEPC72 were relentless in their efforts to seal a deal that ensures the international maritime sector will act responsibly in limiting the impact of its activities on climate change.

The Pacific would not have been able to achieve these results without the efforts of a number of other countries and organisations seeking targets for limiting shipping emissions. Even the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has supported the target setting for the Initial Strategy. The worst that could have happened for the industry was to be left in limbo without any targets set and without any indication that the industry must have a vision for a zero emission future. Many actors from within the industry have in the past supported ambitious reductions in light that the technology is already there to make this happen. It is important that the industry starts shifting to and incorporating these technologies now to allow for a gradual adjustment, rather than a rapid adjustment at a later point in time which would certainly be more disruptive for the shipping industry.

Pacific people needed the IMO to set more ambitious targets for the Initial Strategy for reduction of GHG emissions in the international maritime transport sector. They should not accept anything less than what the world is required to do to meet targets set in the Paris Agreement. However the agreement left a window open for the target to be adjusted according to the scientific information available, so it remains in line with the Paris Agreement.

It is expected that all countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement would abide by the words and spirit of that agreement.

Read more: The IMO’s 2018 climate agreement explained

Also see our MEPC72 coverage here.