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Was it really a bungled Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting?

Industry observers criticised the weak meeting outcome, yet overlooked an important perspective

The industry was upset with the recent International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) MEPC meeting. There were no new policy measures on curbing maritime emissions. Instead, there was a unique take that nobody picked up.

An obscured perspective about net zero
While IMO’s Secretary-General Kitack Lim acknowledged the pressing need to address global warming, everything that took place at the MEPC meeting did not cut it, despite the heavy lobbying at COP26. Apart from no new policies, the MEPC did not approve the International Maritime and Research Board’s (IMRB) proposal from the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). The motion involved a US$2 per tonne marine fuel tax collected by the IMO and distributed as a research fund to help decarbonise shipping.

Surprisingly, climate change academic Dr Tristan Smith from University College London pointed out that though the MEPC did not endorse the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)’s proposal to aim for net zero, he was positive about the proposal’s adoption of zero emissions policy by 2050. He explained, “A powerful majority wanted some type of zero by 2050, and is a majority that normally would be expected to only strengthen over the period to 2023.”

Above all, Dr Smith noted the business quandary of it. He felt the word “net” introduced the concept of offsetting into the equation. That deterred businesses from investing in decarbonisation. His compelling question for thought was, “Why would you spend money on a technology if a policymaker is opening out the market to offsets that could achieve compliance at expected much lower prices?”

In other words, Dr Smith implied that net zero is achievable despite MEPC had nothing announced. He remarked, “Transitions occur because of investment. Shipping needs massive investment to unlock technologies and energy supply chains that warrant rapid developments. These investments will be primarily from the private sector, including diversion for investment that is currently heading to fossil fuels, including liquefied natural gas (LNG)”. He believed many were investing in zero-emission-ready ships that will be able to operate on zero emission fuels, or will be capable of being adapted to run on new fuels.


Marine Online Media Team
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