Pacific should be proud of Pacific led efforts to decarbonise shipping

The Pacific Islands Development Forum notes the positive outcome of the 72nd Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC72) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) last month. The IMO meeting agreed to reduce shipping emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Pacific delegates at the MEPC72 meeting of the IMO

The PIDF Secretary General François Martel said, “This outcome, though less ambitious than what we 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 clear market 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. And please don’t forget the shipping needs of our small islands when you do so.”

PIDF congratulates the delegates from the Pacific Island nations, supported by USP and the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport, at the MEPC72 for their commitment and relentless efforts in pursuing a deal that ensures the international maritime sector will act responsibly in limiting the impact of its activities on climate change.  The initial call for shipping to decarbonise by the late Tony de Brum at the IMO in 2015 has been consistently argued by delegations from across the Pacific since and is considered catalytic to last month’s historic agreement.

Mr Martel said, “We are all proud of the efforts of our Pacific delegates. PIDF also recognises 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. We also note that the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), World Shipping Council (WSC) and market leaders such as Maersk have 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 we already have the technology to make this happen. It is important that we immediately invest in the necessary research and development to bring these to market at scale. Achieving the IMO targets will need continuous incremental change, 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. We 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.

PIDF expects all countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement to abide by the words and spirit of that agreement.

We also expect that the commitment made by IMO members in the agreement to fully recognise the needs of Small Island States, with our unique shipping scenarios and vulnerabilities, is given full effect to. In many respects, the work begun in the IMO is just the start of a long process. In October the IMO will meet again to agree the action plan for achieving the target of 50% reduction in emissions by 2050.  It is essential Pacific states remain full participants and PIDF will be working with our partners to assist our members prepare for this next round of IMO negotiations.

It is a little disappointing for us to hear the World Shipping Council CEO tell Radio New Zealand that while the industry supports efforts to cut emissions, there is currently no technology that will allow them to reach this target (http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/2018642606/shipping-industry-more-research-into-emissions-reductions). The International Transport Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is clear we can decarbonise maritime transport by 2035 through alternative fuels and renewable energy, technological measures to improve energy efficiency of ships and through operational improvements (report at https://www.itf-oecd.org/decarbonising-maritime-transport). These are highly recognized independent experts and Mr Butler is downplaying our state of readiness. He is obviously out of step with market leaders such as Maersk.  It is time to act and we need to act without delay.” said Mr Martel.