Pacific Island nations were central to pushing a deal that was struck last week by more than 170 countries at the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.
World Shipping Council CEO John Butler said that while the industry supports efforts to cut emissions, there is currently no technology that will allow them to reach this target.
“In order to get to these goals it will be necessary to stand up a very substantial research and development exercise or effort to figure out which technologies are most promising and the pursue those technologies to the point where they can be safely and commercially deployed on a vessel.”
Butler says his organisation is calling for the IMO to fund, direct and monitor a research programme into better fuel efficiency in the shipping industry.
The International Maritime Organisation agreement on reducing greenhoue gas emissions follows international talks last week in London between representatives from relevant countries.
The final deal appeared to mirror the terms being sought by the government of Norway – but is far less than what the Marshall Islands and the European Union had been aiming for.
Those parties had reportedly been aiming for carbon emissions reductions of between 70 to 100 per cent by 2050 –as compared to 2008 levels.
Opposition to such goals was voiced by the USA, Panama, and Saudi Arabia, amongst others.
British-based research group InfluenceMap said an emissions cut of 70 per cent would have been much closer to what is needed if shipping is to be in line with the goals of the Paris agreement.
Shipping accounts for 2.2 per cent of world CO2 emissions, according to the IMO, the UN agency responsible for regulating pollution from ships.
This is around the amount emitted by Germany, according to the latest EU data available, and is predicted to grow significantly if left unchecked.
The IMO has adopted mandatory rules for new vessels to boost fuel efficiency as a means of cutting CO2 from ship engines. A final IMO plan is not expected until 2023.
Chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping Guy Platten hailed the IMO’s decision: “Crucially, this should be seen as a stepping stone towards decarbonisation in the long term – something which must continue to be a major focus in the years ahead.”
However, response from the world’s second largest shipping registry, the Marshall Islands, was less emphatic.
President Hilda Heine said: “The IMO has made history, and while it may not give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes clear international shipping will now urgently reduce emissions.
“This helps make every country safer, but even a landmark cap and clear targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with Paris, we need to improve over time in line with the latest science.” - PNC