Tackling Shipping Emissions Requires Greater International Co-operation: Experts

25 February 2009

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry will require close cooperation between the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), experts agreed at a UN meeting in Geneva last week.
 
Maritime transport is a major conduit for global trade. Despite the current unfavourable economic conditions, projected growth in international trade suggests that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping will also continue to increase unless radical regulatory, technical and operational measures are implemented.
 
Last week’s meeting, hosted by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, placed special emphasis on the potential implications for Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Islands Developing Countries (SIDS), which may struggle more than other nations to mitigate their emissions and adapt to the effects of warming.
 
Experts say that if the shipping industry continues business as usual, carbon dioxide emissions will increase between 125 and 220 percent by 2050. Moreover, forecasted climate change threats - such as rising sea levels, changes in ocean currents, and weather patterns - are likely to negatively impact maritime transport and infrastructure. Thus, both mitigation and adaptation measures will need to be taken.
 
Experts at the meeting stressed that governments and other relevant stakeholders should weigh the costs and benefits of using a market-based or a standards-based approach to lowering emissions and adapting to climate change.
 
In this context, the experts considered the International Maritime Emission Reduction Scheme (IMERS), which would consist of a levy imposed on fuel sold for international shipping. According to Andre Stochniol, who presented the scheme, IMERS would reconcile the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ principle under the UNFCCC with the global uniform application of instruments adopted under the IMO. Furthermore, Stochniol suggested that revenues generated by the levy could be used to help LDCs and SIDS take action on climate change.
 
Regional scientific data needed
 
Countries should be sure to integrate climate change considerations into their transportation policies, the experts said. A study conducted by the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure in the Gulf Coast of the United States revealed that, at least in that case, the use of risk assessment helped make the region’s transportation infrastructure more resilient. However, given that the level of vulnerability and adaptation requirements varies from region to region, results obtained in such studies cannot necessarily be extrapolated. Thus, experts say, local and regional scientific data analysis will be critical, and the link between science and policy-making should be strengthened.
 
Experts agreed that the high costs and technological barriers involved in the development of more resilient maritime infrastructure must be addressed if LDCs and SIDS, in particular, are to meet the challenges associated with climate change. They say there is a need for effective technology transfer mechanisms and additional financial resources for adaptation purposes.
 
With regard to finance, concerns were raised on the potential impacts of the current financial crisis on present and future overseas development assistance. Indeed, financing gaps for climate change mitigation and adaptation are already quite significant. According to the World Bank, however, its climate change assistance facility and disaster relief mechanism may have the potential to address some of those gaps.
 
ICTSD reporting.

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