In fact, the working group agreed the draft text of a resolution to be put forward to the next Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) for adoption. The paper advises Member States to develop and update a voluntary National Action Plan (NAP) in order to contribute in reducing GHG emissions from international shipping.

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Such a plan could include measures such as “improving domestic institutional and legislative arrangements for the effective implementation of existing IMO instruments,” “developing activities to further enhance the energy efficiency of ships,” “initiating research and advancing the uptake of alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels,” “accelerating port emission reduction activities, consistent with resolution MEPC.323(74),” “fostering capacity-building, awareness-raising and regional cooperation” and “facilitating the development of infrastructure for green shipping” among others.

Such a resolution would invite Member States to reflect upon such actions that they put in place or plan to do so in order to support emission reduction from ships, in accordance with their national conditions, circumstances and priorities. IMO states that the draft resolution will be submitted to the next Marine Environment Protection Committee session, MEPC 75 (30 March to 3 April 2020) hoping for adoption.

Notably, IMO has already implemented mandatory technical and operational measures in order to improve the energy efficiency of ships and reduce GHG emissions, such as the energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for all ships of 400 GT and above.

The initial strategy underlines several candidate measures which can be considered to further reduce emissions and help achieve the targets of the scheme, such as the 40% reduction of carbon intensity from shipping by 2030. In particular, some short-term measures could be finalized and agreed by the Committee between 2018 and 2023, whatsoever, priority should be given to develop potential early measures with a view to achieving further reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping prior to 2023.

Moreover, the proposals discussed fell into two goal-based approaches; a technical approach and an operational approach. From a technical perspective, an Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) can come into effect, requiring ships to meet set energy efficiency requirements, as well as mandatory power limitation on ships.

From an operational perspective, it is advised the strengthening of the ship energy efficiency management plan, as required in SEEMP, including proposals for mandatory carbon intensity reduction targets. Also, other operational proposals can include measures to optimize speed for the voyage and further limit ship speed.

IMO highlights that

A mandatory goal-based approach for both the technical and operational approaches would provide the needed flexibility and incentive for innovation (a goal-based approach would set the objective to be achieved, while leaving room for a range of methods or innovation to achieve the set goal).

Whatsoever, some of the key underlying issues as identified by the chair for further consideration included “the vital role of shipping for food security and disaster response; the impact on cost of transport and if cost change can be passed on to the customer or not; and special challenges faced by some remote areas.”

Furthermore, looking in the future, the Working Group also agreed on the establishment of a dedicated workstream for the development of lifecycle GHG/carbon intensity guidelines for all relevant types of fuels, such as biofuels, electro-/synthetic fuels such as hydrogen or ammonia among others, in order to encourage the uptake of alternative low- and zero-carbon fuels in the shipping sector.

This was sixth session of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships which met during 11-15 November at the IMO Headquarters in London, United Kingdom. It was attended by nearly 400 representatives from nearly 70 Member States, as well as from the UNFCCC, the European Commission, the League of Arab States and almost 30 other non-governmental organizations.

It is added that further discussion and development is needed with an eye to a further seventh meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships which will be held 23-27 March 2020, right before and back to back with the next Marine Environment Protection Committee session, MEPC 75 (30 March to 3 April 2020).

ECSA stresses that the IMO's Intersessional Working Group meeting which took place in London was "good and fruitful preparatory work,"  with Martin Dorsman, ECSA's Secretary-General, highlighting that

The European shipping industry, under the umbrella of the International Chamber of Shipping, is keen to see results at that moment that deliver on both short- and medium-term measures. It will show to EU regulators that the IMO is the most appropriate global platform to effectively reduce CO2 emissions from shipping.

Moreover, the IMO highlights that its Fourth GHG Study will incorporate the

  • Inventory of current global emissions of GHGs and relevant substances emitted from ships of 100 GT and above engaged in international voyages. The inventory should include total annual GHG emission series from 2012 to 2018, or as far as statistical data are available.
  • GHGs are defined as the six gases initially considered under the UNFCCC process: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The inventory should also include other relevant substances that may contribute to climate change, including Black Carbon (BC).
  • Estimates of carbon intensity (estimates of world fleet's CO2 emissions per transport work, from 2012 to 2018, or as far as statistical data are available).
  • Possible estimates of carbon intensity of international shipping for the year 2008 (the baseline year for the levels of ambition identified in the Initial Strategy).
  • Scenarios for future international shipping emissions 2018-2050

In April 2018, it was announced that after a week of extensive negotiations, both developing and developed countries attending the IMO MEPC 72 meeting in London, have reached an agreement to reduce shipping's GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008. This was marked as a historic decision, as the shipping industry aims to align with the Paris Agreement goals.

The 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.

Moreover, during the London International Shipping Week in September, IMO's Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, highlighted the need make zero-emission ships more commercially attractive, adding that the 2050 GHG goals can not be achieved by only using fossil fuels.

Namely, the Sec-Gen noted that the 2050 GHG goals have to be accomplished through a new propulsion revolution. During the meeting, the Sec-Gen addressed the current challenges facing the maritime sector, including innovation such as digitalization as well as the debate around Arctic shipping. Also, the 2020 sulphur cap regulation is rapidly approaching, as Kitack Lim noted '(the regulation) has been a long time coming and is fast approaching'.