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It fell to scientists to draw international attention to the threats posed by global warming.  Evidence in the 1960s and '70s that concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere were increasing first led climatologists and others to press for action.  It took years before the international community responded.

In 1988, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which issued a first assessment report in 1990 which reflected the views of 400 scientists.  The report stated that global warming was real and urged that something be done about it.
The Panel's findings spurred governments to create the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was ready for signature at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - more popularly known as the "Earth Summit" - in Rio de Janeiro.
The Kyoto Protocol adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, which major feature is binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh in 2001, and are called the “Marrakesh Accords”.  The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005.
The Kyoto Protocol contains provisions for reducing GHG emissions from international aviation and shipping and treats these sectors in a different way to other sources due to their global activities that is, pursuing though the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) respectively.  Emissions from domestic aviation and shipping are included in national targets for Annex I countries.  ICAO and IMO regularly report progress on their work to UNFCCC.

IMO begins work on GHG emissions

In September 1997, an International Conference of Parties to the MARPOL Convention, which adopted the Protocol of 1997 to amend the MARPOL Convention (MARPOL Annex VI), also adopted resolution 8 on CO2 emissions from ships.  This resolution invited the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to consider what CO2 reduction strategies might be feasible in light of the relationship between CO2 and other atmospheric and marine pollutants.  The resolution also invited IMO, in cooperation with the UNFCCC, to undertake a study of CO2 emissions from ships for the purpose of establishing the amount and relative percentage of CO2 emissions from ships as part of the global inventory of CO2 emissions.
In 2000, the first IMO GHG Study on GHG emissions from ships was published, which estimated that ships engaged in international trade in 1996 contributed about 1.8 per cent of the world total anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Adoption of resolution

In December 2003, the IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.963(23) on IMO Policies and practices related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, which urged MEPC to identify and develop the mechanism(s) needed to achieve the limitation or reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping.  In the ensuing years, MEPC has since been energetically pursuing measures to limit and reduce GHG emissions from international shipping.