No resolution as MEPC ends
A huge rift has opened up in the International Maritime Organization over the issue of climate change.
As debate inside the agency"s central Marine Environment Protection Committee climaxed today, developing countries queued up to voice their ?dismay? over what Saudi Arabia evocatively described as ?the tyranny of the majority? that has developed around the debate on greenhouse gas reduction in the shipping industry.
Attempts to push forward a mandatory Energy Efficiency Design Index for vessels were robustly resisted by an increasingly vocal bloc of developing nations determined to keep hold of their political bargaining chips on issues of development finance.
Despite having considered the mandatory application of the EEDI as part of the debate on technical and operational measures for more than a decade, developing states argued that measures were insufficiently advanced and the wider implications of such a move had been left uncalculated.
The fact that an internal IMO study had concluded last year that a mandatory limit on the EEDI for new ships was a cost-effective solution that could provide an incentive to improve design efficiency of new ships was largely ignored during the debate.
The end result was yet another period of assessment and consultation to give governments more time to remove political roadblocks that remain outside the IMO"s control.
Key proposals were deferred to a hastily arranged inter-sessional meeting of the MEPC. But with no signs of consensus on the horizon, the move appeared to be a question of playing for time rather than a clear political strategy.
Underneath the technicalities of the debate and political objections lies a schism between developed and developing nations within the IMO.
Chinese delegates put it best when they told the meeting in unusually frank terms that they considered this to be not only a question of climate change but a political matter of international development.
In the absence of wider political consensus within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, developing countries have remained steadfast in their opposition to agreements that they consider will leave them economically disadvantaged.
While all IMO member governments publicly accept the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry and accept the primacy of the IMO as the technical body to agree such measures, in the end developing states have unanimously played for more time.
Industry officials on the MEPC described progress as painfully slow and tortuous, but suggested there were positive messages that shipowners could take away from the meeting.
?When we entered this meeting we did not have regulatory text on the table; now we do. More concrete elements of the design index are also in place. This is all positive progress and the industry will see that and continue the development itself,? International Chamber of Shipping marine director Peter Hinchliffe told Lloyd"s List.
Nevertheless, with little sign of the wider political disagreements being resolved soon, Mr Hinchliffe agreed that further progress within the IMO was likely to be slow.
?We went to Copenhagen last December hoping that the UNFCCC would resolve this issue, but that did not happen,? he said.
?Whether that can be done [at the next scheduled UNFCCC meetings] in Bonn or Cancun is another issue. It is to early to call, but the fact that the issue continues to dog the IMO debate means it really is difficult at the moment to see a way through this.?