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Greenhouse Gas Emissions


MEPC 67 approved the Third IMO GHG Study 2014 , providing updated emission estimates for greenhouse gases from ships. According to estimates presented in this study, international shipping emitted 796 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012, that is, about 2.2% of the total global CO2 emissions for that year.  By contrast, in 2007, before the global economic downturn, international shipping is estimated to have emitted 885 million tonnes of CO2, that is, 2.8% of the total global CO2 emissions for that year. 

IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has given extensive consideration to control of GHG emissions from ships and finalized in July 2009 a package of specific technical and operational reduction measures.  In March 2010 MEPC started the consideration of making the technical and operational measures mandatory for all ships irrespective of flag and ownership.  This work was completed in July 2011 with the breakthrough adoption of technical measures for new ships and operational reduction measures for all ships, which are, consequently, the first ever mandatory global GHG reduction regime for an entire industry sector.  The adopted measures add to MARPOL

Annex VI a new Chapter 4 entitled "Regulations on energy efficiency for ships", making mandatory the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Plan (SEEMP) for all ships.  The regulations entered into force through the tacit acceptance procedure on 1 January 2013 and apply to all ships over 400 gross tonnage and above. 

MEPC 70 (October 2016) approved a Roadmap for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, which foresaw adoption of an initial GHG reduction strategy in April 2018.

The Roadmap contains a list of activities, including further IMO GHG studies and significant intersessional work, with relevant timelines and provides for alignment of those new activities with the ongoing work by MEPC on the three-step approach to ship energy efficiency improvements. This alignment provides a way forward to the adoption of a revised strategy in 2023 to include short-, mid-, and long-term further measures, as required, including implementation schedules.

MEPC 70 also agreed to hold a series of intersessional meetings of the working group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships.  The first intersessional meeting was held back-to-back with MEPC 71 in June 2017. The second intersessional meeting held in October 2017 made progress in starting to shape the draft initial IMO GHG Strategy. The third intersessional meeting was instructed to finalize a draft text of the initial IMO GHG Strategy.  

IMO Assembly - the Organization's supreme body - adopted during its 30th session in December 2017 a strategic direction entitled "Respond to Climate Change".

Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships

On 13 April 2018, MEPC 72 adopted resolution MEPC.304(72) on Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships (download here).

The "Vision" set out in the text of this important "Initial Strategy" confirms IMO's commitment to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping and, as a matter of urgency, to phasing them out as soon as possible in this century.

The Initial Strategy envisages for the first time a reduction in total GHG emissions from international shipping which, it says, should peak as soon as possible and to reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while, at the same time, pursuing efforts towards phasing them out as called for in the Vision as a point on a pathway of CO2 emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.

Levels of ambition also include reviewing with the aim to strengthen the energy efficiency design requirements for ships with the percentage improvement for each phase to be determined for each ship type, as appropriate and reduction of CO2 emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, compared to 2008.

The reviews of these levels of ambition should take into account updated emission estimates, emissions reduction options for international shipping, and the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as relevant.

The Initial Strategy represents a framework for further action, setting out the future vision for international shipping, the levels of ambition to reduce GHG emissions and guiding principles; and includes candidate short-, mid- and long-term further measures with possible timelines and their impacts on States. The strategy also identifies barriers and supportive measures including capacity building, technical cooperation and research and development (R&D).

During MEPC 72, the UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres stated: "I call on nations to adopt an ambitious Initial Strategy at the IMO that would support the modernization of the shipping sector in a manner consistent with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement". Addressing representatives of IMO Member States and IMO staff on 4 May 2018, Mr. Guterres highlighted the important contribution of IMO's work towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He welcomed, in particular, the adoption by IMO of the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, as a major step forward in global action to combat climate change.

The adoption of the Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships is a historic milestone in the Organization's continuous contribution to global efforts to limit and reduce GHG emissions. This strategy should send a strong signal to the shipping sector as a whole to stimulate investment in the development of low- and zero-carbon fuels and innovative energy-efficient technologies.

Continuing the momentum of work on this important issue, MEPC 72 agreed to hold the fourth meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships (ISWG-GHG 4) later in 2018. This working group has been tasked with developing a programme of follow-up actions to the Initial Strategy; further consider how to progress reduction of GHG emissions from ships; and report to the next session of the MEPC (MEPC 73), which will meet in London, 22-26 October 2018.

Shipping and Climate Change videos

These three short videos explain IMO's energy-efficiency requirements and highlight capacity-building as a way to promote uptake of the measures.

  Making new ships better                 Making existing ships better          Driving green technology