The global shipping industry is responsible for 90% of world trade by volume but it is also a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU has put in place legislation with specific climate and energy targets to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.
In November 2020, MEPC 75 approved the new EEXI regulations and corresponding amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, introducing new short-term mandatory measures, requiring the application of technical efficiency measures for existing ships (EEXI regulations) and the reduction of operational carbon intensity indicator (CII) for ships in operation, while the guidelines are subject to finalization and approval at MEPC 76 in June 2021. The Shipping industry is now expected to develop “cleaner” and energy efficient vessels, while research on alternative options is constantly increasing and a considerable investment is made in the development of advanced technologies, emission abatement mechanisms, energy-efficient engines, and alternative fuels for ships to enable the industry to meet the decarbonization and sustainability targets.
The shipping industry has an important part to play in combatting climate change. The Paris Agreement aimed to reduce global warming to well below 2°C and pursue 1.5°C. Despite a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C within the century. Urgent action is needed on both mitigation and adaptation. At the regulatory level, the shipping industry is addressing climate issues through the 1973/1978 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). In June 2021, the IMO adopted amendments to Annex VI of the Convention, which introduced new mandatory regulations to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and require owners to set energy efficiency targets.
The reduction of GHG emissions from shipping was central to the discussions at MEPC 77 while a substantial amount of time was dedicated to the discussion of methods for reducing GHG emissions from ships, zero carbon technologies, the range of zero carbon bunker fuel options, the establishment of an automated IMO Maritime Research Fund (IMRF) for R&D (developed by the ICS).
2021 joined the list of the seven warmest years on record and was also the seventh consecutive year when the global temperature has been more than 1°C above pre-industrial levels, as the UN weather agency reported; edging closer to the limit laid out under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Global warming and other long-term climate change trends are expected to continue as a result of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The long-awaited COP26 climate summit in Glasgow made important progress in a number of areas — but not enough. The world still remains off track to beat back the climate crisis.
Recognizing the urgency of the challenge, ministers from all over the world agreed that countries should come back next year to submit stronger 2030 emissions reduction targets with the aim of closing the gap to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C. To keep the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C within reach, we need to cut global emissions in half by the end of this decade. In contrast, the United Nations calculates that these plans, as they stand, put the world on track for 2.5 degrees C of warming by the end of the century.
The transition to a climate-neutral society is both an urgent challenge and an opportunity to build a better future for all. All parts of society and economic sectors will play a role – from the power sector to industry, mobility, transportation, buildings, agriculture, and forestry.