Shipping sector told it needs to chart clear course to net zero

UN secretary general António Guterres, has warned the world’s shipping industry needs to take responsibility for its role in the ongoing global greenhouse gas emission crisis.

Speaking as a key meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) opened in London he said: “Humanity is in dangerous waters on climate. But the decisions you take over the coming days could help us chart a safer course.

“Science tells us it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But it requires an immense and immediate global effort. And shipping, which accounts for almost three percent of global emissions, will be vital. “

Guterres said industry has seen some progress, however, it must move much faster to get on track and drive investment and innovation.

“I urge you to leave London having agreed a Greenhouse Gas Strategy that commits the sector to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and that includes ambitious science-based targets starting in 2030 – both on absolute emissions reductions and the use of clean fuels,” he continued. “These must include all greenhouse gas emissions and cover the whole value chain. Such targets will provide the certainty that the industry and investors need.

“I also urge you to commit to developing technical and economic policies and regulations to deliver on these targets and support a just, equitable transition.”

Guterres explained measures such as carbon pricing will push the industry in the right direction by making zero-emission fuels more competitive.

“While the finance generated can support the just transition in developing countries and address the needs of those most vulnerable to the climate crisis. This meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee  (MEPC) is a chance to steer us towards a clean, prosperous future for the industry – and a safer future for humanity.”

IMO secretary general Kitack Lim told the eightieth session of the MEPC that the decisions made this week will have a long lasting and propound effect on the industry and the planet.

“This MEPC will undoubtedly be a busy session, with several priority items on the agenda,” he explained. “The main topic at this session is the Organisation’s response to the global climate crisis.

“You are expected to adopt the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy, and I encourage you to be ambitious in setting targets which will put shipping on a clear trajectory to phasing out GHG emissions. I am also certain that you will all closely cooperate with each other in line with IMO’s long-standing spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

“I have no doubt that you will reach agreements showcasing our commitment to combatting climate change in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.”

Lim added: “This is a historic moment in which all of you have a role to play. The 2023 IMO GHG Strategy will be your legacy, for which your children and grandchildren will be grateful. The time for IMO to demonstrate its global leadership is now.”

“Now you have reached the final stage of the marathon to finish the 2023 Strategy,” he continued. “I urge you to do your best to reap the fruits of your efforts and achieve success.”

Lim said following almost two decades of discussions and negotiations, a new legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, was finally adopted at the UN headquarters on 19 June 2023.

“Together with the Kunming-Montreal Global Framework for Biodiversity, which was adopted by the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in December last year, and the ongoing negotiations for a new legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution, under the United Nations Environment Assembly, there is no doubt that your Committee’s efforts to ensure a greener, more equitable and more sustainable maritime future is of greater importance than ever before,” he added. “Enhanced cooperation is needed at all levels to support the fight against the challenges facing us on climate change, biodiversity loss and marine pollution. I am certain I can count on the continued support of the IMO family so that IMO can make a definitive contribution to addressing those challenges.”