When black carbon is emitted from ships burning heavy fuel in or near Arctic waters, particles fall on ice or snow, reducing its reflectivity and causing it to absorb more heat. This accelerates the warming of the Arctic.
Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a group of nonprofit organisations campaigning for a ban on use and carriage of ban HFO, commented that:
By cutting ship-sourced emissions of black carbon, IMO member states could take a quick and effective path to countering the current climate crisis, and minimise further impacts on the Arctic. We’re calling on IMO member states to champion a move away from using heavy fuel oils - shipping’s number one source of black carbon - in Arctic waters
Last year, during MEPC 72 in April 2018, a strongly-worded proposal to ban HFO as shipping fuel from Arctic waters was co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US. The ban is currently being developed within the IMO.
In this aspect, at a public discussion at the April 2019 International Arctic Forum in Saint Petersburg, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said that there are two promising ways to mitigate black carbon emissions in the Arctic. One is modernising outdated heating and power plants. Another is investing in clean and sustainable shipping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was in the same wavelength, saying that as the Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the world, vessels must convert to more environmentally friendly types of fuel.
Earlier this month, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on the need for Arctic nations to reinstate their commitment to decreasing black carbon emissions, through cooperation within the IMO, after the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Finland did not manage to achieve a consensus on issuing a joint declaration for the first time in its 23-year history, because of the US refusal to support the need for collaborative action by the Arctic Council to address climate change.
The most concerning fact is that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe. In fact, recent reports suggest that Greenland’s ice sheet is 'falling apart', with about half of the nearly 5,000 gigatons of water lost from the ice sheet since 1927 taking place in 8 years between 2010 and 2018.