Spectre of Europe Taking Independent Action on Shipping GHG Regulations Moves Closer

Wednesday April 11, 2018

The prospect of Europe taking independent measures to reduce GHG emissions from Shipping is growing in likelihood, with Members of European Parliament (MEPs) saying they are prepared to take such action if they deem the strategy adopted at this week's MEPC72 to be "too lame."

Moreover, confidence that a satisfactory outcome will be reached is falling, they say.

"If we get no deal, or a deal that is too lame, it is a missed opportunity for the IMO to show its responsibility," MEP Jytte Guteland said Tuesday during a press briefing.

"We [European Parliament] don't want to do things if IMO is taking responsible action, but we are willing to go further if necessary."

As previously detailed on Ship & Bunker, following discussions at the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships last week, IMO's 72nd meeting of its Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC72) this week is expected to adopt an initial strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships.

Ambition?

In the run up to MEPC72 most all of the vocal stakeholders were pushing for "ambitious" GHG reduction targets to be set, but crucially there is little common ground on what this actually means. Proposals for a 50% to 100% reduction in GHGs between 2050 or 2060 are all under general consideration as part of the middle ground.

Critical for Europe is that a number of its Member States are pushing for an objective of at least 70 to 100% emission reduction by 2050 over 2008 levels, but they see the general consensus moving away from what they would consider acceptable.

"Last week [the working group] was positive, and we have a draft document with absolute reductions. We have never been this close to a deal that matters," Netherlands MEP Bas Eickhout said Tuesday.

"But yesterday and today make me less optimistic. What is on the table is the bare minimum, and it's not good enough. The target is insufficient, and there are no short-term actions at all."

MEPs have already voted to take action from 2023 if the IMO does not have an Emissions Trading Scheme operating for global shipping from 2021 that is in-line with Europe's own plans.

Still, having such "EU only" regional rules is seen by most as being highly undesirable, including by bodies such as the European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA), with global regulation via the IMO by far the favoured course of action.

"Both the Council and the Parliament have said if we don't see real steps forward on a global scale by 2023, the EU needs to take action. But we don't want to go down that road, we want the IMO to deliver," said Guteland.

A number of groups have also been keen to paint MEPC72 as Shipping and the IMO's last chance to take credible action on the sector's GHG emissions, a play that seems to have been anticipated by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.

"This Strategy that you decided to adopt this week is designed as a strong statement addressed to the outside world and, as a platform, will pave the way forward for future work related to reduction of GHG emissions from ships. In that sense we should all keep in mind that this initial Strategy is not a final stage but rather a key starting point," he said In his opening address for MEPC72.

The MEPC is expected to decide on an initial GHG strategy later this week.