July 10, 2023
The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee met for their 80th session between 3rd and 7th July. The committee agreed to reach net-zero GHG emissions from international shipping ‘by or around’ 2050 and that the mid-term GHG reduction measures, including a maritime GHG emissions pricing mechanism should be finalised and adopted by 2025. Let’s take a closer look at the key outcomes of the meeting.
Following strong criticism of the IMO GHG reduction strategy, the MEPC met last week to revise the IMO strategy and set more ambitious goals for the decarbonisation of the maritime sector. Key items on the agenda included the new levels of ambition, a basket of mid-term GHG reduction measures and the adoption of lifecycle GHG intensity of marine fuels guidelines.
The IMO has agreed to reach net-zero GHG emissions from international shipping ‘by or around’ 2050 with the following ‘indicative checkpoints’ as a guide to the revised ambition.
The revised IMO strategy aims to reduce the carbon intensity of international shipping by at least 40% by 2030, compared to 2008.
It further promotes the development of zero or near-zero GHG emissions technologies and fuels with the aim of having 5-10% of these used by the shipping industry by 2030.
The committee has agreed that the mid-term GHG reduction measures should be finalised and adopted by 2025. There was support for both a technical and an economic element in the development of the mid-term measures. These would comprise of a system that will specify how much GHGs can be present in marine fuels at a given period and which will be continuously reduced, as well as a maritime GHG emissions pricing mechanism .
The development of mid-term measures should consider well-to-wake GHG emissions of marine fuels in contrast to the IMO’s earlier approach which only includes tank-to-wake CO2 emissions. Based on the timeline published, entry into force of the agreed measures is expected in 2027.
The committee adopted the LCA guidelines on a well-to-wake calculation basis of total GHG emissions in the production and distribution of marine fuels. Further development of the guidelines is undertaken and will be discussed in MEPC 81.
The short-term measures will be reviewed by 1 January 2026 with discussions revolving around:
To facilitate this, additional elements such as transport work are likely included in the DCS reporting from 2026. The reported DCS figures shall also be made more accessible.
A temporary regulation regarding use of biofuel under DCS and CII regulations was approved until the LCA guidelines are finalized.
Biofuels can apply a well-to-wake GHG emission factor given that they:
While the revision of the IMO’s GHG strategy is an important milestone in the decarbonisation of the maritime industry, the University Maritime Advisory Services (UMAS) points out that the indicative checkpoints do not align with the IPCC’s guidance in limiting global temperature increase to 1.5. They are also not mandatory, which reduces the pressure and incentive to meet them. The support in the development of zero and near-zero technologies is important, but there is no guidance on how this will be done and what incentives will be available to make them a reality
Overall, the fact that the IMO increased its level of ambition is a welcome development that should hopefully give an incentive to our industry to intensify our decarbonisation efforts. The fixed timeline for the introduction of a global maritime GHG pricing mechanism is also a strong incentive for more rapid decarbonisation action. Having said that, clear guidance from the organisation both on mid-term measures and development of zero carbon technologies will be essential going forward.