Countries agree to cut shipping emissions

THE global shipping industry agreed a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions for the first time on Friday in a deal that had been hard pushed by small Pacific countries.

The agreement came at the end of a week-long meeting of the International Maritime Organisation, a United Nations body, in London, where small countries were pitted against large shipping nations that were against such restrictions.

Friday’s agreement calls for global shipping emissions to peak as soon as possible, and to reduce the total annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent of 2008 levels by 2050.

It also calls for efforts to be pursued to phase out greenhouse gas emissions from shipping entirely.

The IMO’s Secretary General, Kitack Lim, hailed the agreement as a “successful illustration of a spirit of cooperation,” while Pacific leaders called it historic.

“Today the IMO has made history,” said the Marshall Islands president, Hilde Heine, in a statement.

“While it may not be enough to give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes it clear that international shipping will now urgently reduce emissions and play its part in giving my country a pathway to survival.”

More than 2 per cent of global emissions of carbon dioxide come from the shipping industry, which is roughly equivalent to Germany’s emissions.

But shipping, like aviation, has been excluded from previous environmental accords, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, because its focus was based on a system of state-level targets.

The Pacific countries have long pushed for a reduction in shipping emissions, which have been mostly unregulated until now.

In 2015, the then-foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, called the former IMO secretary general Koji Sekimizu “danger to the planet” after Mr Sekimizu spoke against regulating emissions in the industry.

Last year, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga called for greater accountability for shipping emissions.

But while the agreement has been hailed by these countries as a victory, it’s just as much a compromise.

It falls well short of some of the lofty ambitions Pacific countries and others held going into discussions.

The European Union and the Marshall Islands, which is the world’s second-biggest ship registry, had sought a goal of cutting emissions by 70 to 100 per cent by 2050 going into the meeting.

The Marshall Islands, at the conference’s opening, warned failure to achieve deep cuts would threaten the country’s survival as global warming intensifies.

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