IMO starts climate talks with a backdrop of pressure for net-zero shipping

June 10, 2021

As the International Maritime Organization (IMO) assembles today to adopt emission reduction measures, it’s with a backdrop of pressure to increase climate ambitions. Nations and industry players call for a net-zero maritime industry by 2050.

The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 76th session will last for seven days, and a key topic is the adoption of short-term measures to reduce carbon emissions from ships.

The current IMO climate target for 2050 is a 50% reduction in annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions versus 2008. The UN target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires net-zero CO2 by 2050.

The U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has targeted to reach net-zero emissions from international shipping by 2050. This would align the maritime industry with the UN industry wide target. According to Bloomberg Green the U.S. has worked with other IMO countries to adopt ambitious measures that’ll place the entire sector on a pathway to achieve this goal.

A.P. Møller-Mærsk, the world’s largest container line, is one of the companies advocating for a maritime net-zero by 2050 goal, and the CEO, Søren Skou, says to Bloomberg Green that the new U.S stance suggests there’s a “better chance” of getting to zero emissions by 2050.  

Other companies like shipowners BW LPG and Klaveness also campaign for raising shipping’s climate ambitions. The companies’ CEOs have criticized the Poseidon Principles, a major banks’ climate initiative, for lack of ambition. Today, Poseidon Principles measure banks' shipping portfolios against the IMO's ambition, and the Klaveness CEO, Lasse Kristoffersen, tells ShippingWatch “that's not going to be enough at all. I mean, this industry needs to head towards zero emission in 2050. So do the banks."  

The building momentum for more ambitious climate targets for the shipping industry might not impact the details of the MEPC 76 decisions, but it will affect the discussions on the next stages of IMO’s work to cut GHG emissions from ships, leading to the revision of the initial GHG strategy in 2023.  

Next week we will sum up the most interesting developments from the MEPC and discuss how adopted guidelines may impact the commercial side of shipping.

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