After a series of meetings at the IMO headquarters, the global shipping industry has finally come to an agreement to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2050.
"Shipping in recent years has been responsible for about 800 million tons annually of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Dan Rutherford, the marine and aviation program director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, who was in attendance for the deliberations in London this week".
"From the 2030s, it is highly unlikely that new ocean-going vessels will be dependent on fossil fuels". At present, ships run nearly entirely on fossil fuels, generally the dirtiest grades of oil, and burn them inefficiently to boot.
Under the identified 'levels of ambition, ' the initial strategy envisages for the first time a reduction in total GHG emissions from worldwide shipping which, IMO said, should peak as soon as possible, and to reduce the total annual GHG emissions at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008. There was limited opposition to the deal with Saudi Arabia and the United States expressing reservations.
In Brussels, the European Commission hailed the deal as "a significant step forward" in the global effort to tackle climate change.
The strategy includes a specific reference to a 'pathway of Carbon dioxide emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals'.
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British-based research group InfluenceMap said an emissions cut of 70% would have been "much closer to what is needed if shipping is to be in line with the goals of the Paris agreement".
Worldwide shipping now emits as much as the sixth-largest global emitter.
While he admitted that such changes are "massive" for a global industry with over 50,000 ships trading internationally, Smith said these reductions can be achieved "with the correct level of investment and better regulation".
The next step is for the IMO to decide whether to make some of these short-term measures mandatory and determine how to enforce the rules. "Without these the goals of the Paris agreement will remain out of reach", he warned.
It's a decision that has been welcomed by Interferry, which used its IMO consultative status to voice concerns from members that even with highly efficient newbuild designs, the sector-wide target was proving problematic because ferry types are so diverse.
But Mr Hinchcliffe from ICS warned that the IMO strategy is highly ambitious given current projections for trade growth as the world's population and levels of prosperity continue to increase.