Shipping community has been watching with great interest the negotiations during the 72nd session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee, on 9-13 April. Namely, IMO MEPC 72 decided to adopt the Initial Greenhouse Gas emission reduction strategy, in order to minimize air pollution, in line with climate goals as defined in Paris Agreement: limiting global warming to 1.5C.

More specifically, MEPC 72 outlined a target to reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while also making efforts to completely eliminate them.

Levels of ambition

The Initial Strategy identifies levels of ambition for the international shipping sector noting that technological innovation and the global introduction of alternative fuels and/or energy sources for international shipping will be integral to achieve the overall ambition. Reviews should take into account updated emission estimates, emissions reduction options for international shipping, and the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ). Levels of ambition directing the Initial Strategy are as follows:

1. carbon intensity of the ship to decline through implementation of further phases of the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) for new ships

to review with the aim to strengthen the energy efficiency design requirements for ships with the percentage improvement for each phase to be determined for each ship type, as appropriate;

2. carbon intensity of international shipping to decline 

to reduce CO2 emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, compared to 2008; and

3. GHG emissions from international shipping to peak and decline

to peak GHG emissions from international shipping as soon as possible and to reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 whilst pursuing efforts towards phasing them out as called for in the Vision as a point on a pathway of CO2 emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.

International sources reported that almost all of the 173 IMO member states supported the draft text and its passage through to committee stage on Friday, with only two objections: of Saudi Arabia and the US.

On the other hand, Argentina and Brazil had been vocally fighting the outright reduction target, but did not reserve their position on the draft text, paving the way for the agreement.


In light of this groundbreaking decision, many organizations have expressed their opinions. Commenting on the IMO’s ongoing discussions on a GHG strategy for shipping at MEPC 72, Mark Simmonds, Policy Manager at the British Ports Association, noted that any agreements reached this week should be implemented by the UK Government in a pragmatic and sensible manner, so that they will not disadvantage any particular region or otherwise distort competition.

In addition, BIMCO said that it is very satisfied with the GHG strategy adopted by IMO. Lars Robert Pedersen, BIMCO Deputy Secretary General, stated:

The strategy shows that there is only one road ahead, and that is the road towards decarbonisation. The strategy reinforces existing IMO regulations to enhance the energy efficiency of ships and sets out the long-term goals. This will guide the development of new technology and the design of new ships.

The International Chamber of shipping (ICS) also applauded the high level strategy for the further reduction of shipping’s GHG emissions. ICS noted that the efficiency goal that has been agreed by IMO Member States for the sector as a whole - a 40% improvement by 2030, compared to 2008, and a 50-70% improvement by 2050 - is also very ambitious but can be achieved. However, governments have to recognise the importance of this challenge and enable the development of new technologies and fuels.

Moreover, the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC) welcomed the MEPC 72 decision as well. However, it said that "the lack of any clear plan of action to deliver the emissions reductions, including urgently needed short-term measures, is a major concern, according to the group of NGOs with observer status at the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO)."

CSC added that the 50% reduction falls short of the 70-100% cut by 2050 that is needed to align the shipping industry with the Paris agreement. Despite that, the words "at least" will pressure for a full decarbonisation by 2050, in order to avoid a catastrophic climate change.


In 2011, IMO became the first international body to adopt mandatory energy-efficiency measures for an entire industry sector with a suite of technical and operational requirements for new and existing vessels that entered into force in 2013. By 2025 new ships built will be 30% more energy efficient than those built in 2014.

The mandatory data collection system for fuel oil consumption of ships, which entered into force in March 2018, will provide robust data and information on which future decisions on additional measures, over and above those already adopted, can be made.

The mandatory data collection system is intended to be the first in a three-step approach in which analysis of the data collected will provide the basis for an objective, transparent and inclusive policy debate in the MEPC, under a roadmap (through to 2023) for developing a “Comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships”. The roadmap was agreed in 2016.