Shipowners believe that shipping emissions should be above the ?rich versus poor nations? debate.
Shipowners believe that shipping emissions should be above the ?rich versus poor nations? debate. Failure to decide on this issue, as well as many others, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last week, represents a missed opportunity. International shipping was one business sector poised to benefit from a binding decision on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Shipping was not included in the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, the predecessor of Copenhagen, because the practical difficulties of including a mobile source in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were recognised at the time the Kyoto treaty was drafted.
However, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has done considerable work over the past decade to tighten up the regime controlling atmospheric pollution from ships. As a result, the maritime sector, as a truly global enterprise, was well positioned to benefit from any firm direction that could have been provided by the 193 nations meeting at the UN summit in Copenhagen in early December. A binding agreement in Copenhagen could have reinforced the advances made by IMO during the course of the current decade and set the agenda for further reductions in ship GHG emissions on a unified, worldwide basis.
In the event, political wrangling and disputes between developed and developing nations as to how the task of reducing emissions could be achieved severely restricted the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting. As the session came to a close, 25 heads of state of primarily western nations hastily agreed the Copenhagen Accord which they claim will keep global warming at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Furthermore, rich nations will fund a group of listed countries to the tune of USD 30 billion over the next three years to assist in reducing the impacts of climate change and cutting carbon emissions. The rich nations have also promised that the fund will contain USD 100 billion a year by 2020. More than one-half of this sum will have to come from as-yet-unspecified private sources.
Another condition of the Accord is that rich nations will have to submit plans for cutting emissions to the UN to enable the agency to inspect and monitor their respective programme. Poorer countries would be required to submit emissions reports, but the mechanism for measurement and verification is still to be developed.
Despite these conditions, there is no obligation to endorse the Copenhagen Accord and no templates in place for updating scientific models in order to translate the stipulated maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase into emission cuts. Scientists in Copenhagen went so far as to say that the terms of the Copenhagen Accord were, in fact, likely to result in a global temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.
Copenhagen also fell short in two other respects. Plans to tackle deforestation through a special fund were put on hold while no date by which global GHG emissions should peak was specified. Scientists say that such a date is crucial because it directly affects the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that accumulates in the atmosphere. Business executives attending the Copenhagen meeting were unanimous in their disappointment with the failure of the world"s leaders to agree a long-term, binding emissions deal and to recognise the extent to which industry is prepared to assist in achieving realistic cuts in GHG emissions. The absence of such an agreement leaves industrial enterprises in the dark as to how best to target their investments in green technology.
Amongst other things, the text of the Accord is silent on how the international shipping industry should deliver the further CO2 emission reductions to which it is firmly committed. For the moment at least, UNFCCC has been unable to agree a clear mandate for IMO, the UN agency responsible for maritime safety and environmental protection, on how to build upon progress to date with a package of technical, operational and economic measures for reducing shipping's emissions on a global basis
The shipping industry itself is firmly behind these initiatives and committed to finalising the new measures provisionally agreed at IMO. Ships carry some 90% of world trade and shipping is acknowledged as the most carbon-efficient mode of commercial transport. However, it is also appreciated that shipping is responsible for about 3.3% of global CO2 emissions, not least because the heavy fuel oils traditionally burned in ship engines represent virtually the bottom of the refined crude oil barrel. Many of the recently agreed and newly developed measures at IMO are aimed at controlling the pollutant by-products of marine engine combustion such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), CO2 and particulates.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), whose member national shipowners' associations represent 75% of the world merchant fleet, points out that because of the lack of direction offered by the Copenhagen Accord, it remains unclear how the Kyoto Protocol principle of ?Common But Differentiated Responsibility? (CBDR) should be reconciled with the important need for global rules on CO2 reductions for the carriage of world trade.
Because shipping is a uniquely international industry, it can only work efficiently when operating within a framework of uniform global regulation that applies equally to all ships, regardless of flag. ICS states that CBDR, at least at ship or company level, will simply not work without the possibility of ?carbon leakage?, given that around 65% of the world fleet is currently registered with non-Annex I, i.e. less developed, nations under the existing Kyoto Protocol.
For its part IMO is pressing ahead and seeking universal approval from maritime states for the outstanding range of ship emission curbs it is developing. The latest rulemakings are now at an advanced stage and IMO will be seeking to finalise the remaining provisions at the upcoming meeting of its Marine Environment Protection Committee in March 2010.
International shipping groups are stressing the need for an IMO-based, global CO2 solution for shipping. Failure to agree a unified approach increases the risk of individual countries developing unilateral measures to regulate at national or regional level the CO2 emissions of ships trading internationally. Such unilateral measures would likely result in serious market distortions and prove to be far less effective in ensuring the reduction of CO2 emissions by the global shipping sector as a whole.
As regards the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference as a whole, a pathway has been created that offers hope for future progress. Early next year a meeting will be held in Bonn at which nations will outline how much they propose to cut their emissions. A further summit will then be held in Mexico in December 2010 to enable nations to commit to a binding treaty that will embody their pledges.