Pressure rises on IMO to rapidly cut black carbon emissions as MEPC 77 kicks off

Pressure rises on IMO to rapidly cut black carbon emissions as MEPC 77 kicks off

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) 77th Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting kicked off this week to discuss a variety of environmental issues including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. One organisation, the Clean Arctic Alliance, has called on the IMO, its member states and international shipping to protect the Arctic by implementing a rapid decrease in emissions of black carbon from shipping in, or close to the Arctic, and to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon emissions from the global shipping industry.  

Black carbon is a short-lived climate forcer responsible for 20 per cent of shipping climate impact (on a 20 year basis). When black carbon settles onto snow and ice, melting accelerates, and the loss of reflectivity creates a feedback loop exacerbating global heating. Black carbon emissions from shipping in the Arctic increased 85 per cent between 2015 and 2019.

“This week, the IMO must tackle the impact of black carbon emissions on the Arctic, by urgently putting in place strong measures to drive rapid, deep cuts to black carbon emissions from shipping operating in or near the Arctic, and to urgently reduce CO2 and black carbon emissions from the maritime sector globally”, said Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance.

“The Clean Arctic Alliance supports the proposal for a resolution submitted to MEPC 77 by eleven IMO Member States that calls on ships operating in and near the Arctic to move from heavier, more polluting fuel oils to lighter distillate fuels with low aromaticity or other cleaner alternative fuels or methods of propulsion”, she added. “If all shipping currently using heavy fuel oils while in the Arctic were to switch to distillate fuel, there would be an immediate reduction of around 44 per cent in black carbon emissions from these ships. If particulate filters were installed on board these vessels, black carbon emissions could be reduced by over 90 per cent”.

During the first day, delegates also discussed the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands’ resolution proposal for zero emission shipping by 2050, with:

  • 8 countries supporting the zero by 2050 resolution: Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Ukraine, the UK, the US, Vanuatu and Iceland
  • 31 countries supporting the 2050 zero shipping emissions target, but not the resolution: the EU27, Georgia, Republic of Korea, Bahamas and Norway
  • Several countries speaking against the 2050 resolution and the 2050 zero-emission target, including Brazil, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates

Several EU countries – Belgium, Finland, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary and Sweden – endorsed the Declaration on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050 at the COP26 climate summit, but today failed to support a resolution at IMO to actually make that the goal for shipping. While these countries still claim to support the zero by 2050 goal, this might be a procedural issue.

The meetings taking place this week are being hosted both online and physically at the IMO’s headquarters in London.