Greenhouse Gas Emissions

GHG emissions from international shipping

The Fourth IMO GHG Study 2020 estimated that total shipping emitted 1,056 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018, accounting for about 2.89% of the total global anthropogenic CO2 emissions for that year, and that under a voyage-based allocation method, the share of international shipping represented 740 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018. According to a range of plausible long-term economic and energy business-as-usual scenarios, emissions could represent 90-130% of 2008 emissions by 2050. In this regard, IMO has been actively engaged in a global approach to further enhance ship's energy efficiency and develop measures to reduce GHG emissions from ships, as well as provide technical cooperation and capacity-building activities.

The MARPOL Annex VI framework to enhance the energy efficiency of ships

IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has given extensive consideration to control of GHG emissions from ships and adopted in 2011 a package of technical measures for new ships and operational reduction measures for all ships. This package, added in a new Chapter 4 of MARPOL Annex VI entitled "Regulations on energy efficiency for ships", is composed of two main measures:

  • the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which requires new ships to comply with minimum mandatory energy efficiency performance levels, increasing over time through different phases;
  • the Ship Energy Efficiency Plan (SEEMP), which establishes a mechanism for shipowners to improve the energy efficiency of both new and existing ships using operational measures such as weather routing, trim and draught optimization, speed optimization, just-in-time arrival in ports, etc.

The regulations entered into force on 1 January 2013 and apply to all ships of 400 gross tonnage and above, irrespective of flag and ownership. These measures are the first ever mandatory global GHG reduction regime for an entire industry sector.

In 2016, MEPC 70 adopted amendments making mandatory the requirement for ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above (representing approximately 85% of GHG emissions from ships) from 1 January 2019 to collect and submit fuel oil consumption data to their flag State for aggregation and then submission to IMO. The Secretary-General will provide an annual report to MEPC. This robust data will inform decision-making at the Committee.

MEPC 70 also approved a Roadmap for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, which foresaw the adoption of an initial GHG reduction strategy in April 2018., further IMO GHG studies and plans the different phases of the three step approach to ship energy efficiency improvements, including collection and analysis of data on ships' fuel oil consumption.

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 and identifies levels of ambition as follows:

  • 1.carbon intensity of the ship to decline through implementation of further phases of the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) for new ships
    to review 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;
  • 2.carbon intensity of international shipping to decline
    to reduce 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; and
  • 3.GHG emissions from international shipping to peak and decline
    to peak GHG emissions from international shipping as soon as possible and to reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 whilst 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.

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).

Addressing representatives of IMO Member States and IMO staff on 4 May 2018, the UN Secretary-General Mr. António 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.

Following this historic step, which sent a clear signal to the shipping industry as a whole to stimulate investment in the development of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels and innovative energy efficient technologies, IMO Member States approved in October 2018 a Programme of follow-up actions of the Initial Strategy up to 2023.

Latest achievements in the implementation of the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships

In May 2019, MEPC 74 progressed in the implementation of the Initial Strategy and its programme of follow-up action with the following achievements:

  • approval of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, for adoption at MEPC 75 in April 2020, to strengthen the existing energy efficiency mandatory requirements (EEDI) for some categories of new ships. In particular, the entry into effect of "phase 3" is brought forward from 2025 to 2022 for several ship types – including containerships, gas carriers, general cargo ships and LNG carriers – and the reduction rate of phase 3 for containerships is significantly enhanced, e.g. it is set at 50% for containerships of 200,000 DWT and above, from 2022 (instead of 30% from 2025);
  • initiation of the Fourth IMO GHG Study, which will include, inter alia, an inventory of global emissions of GHG emissions from international shipping from 2012 to 2018, estimates of carbon intensity of the global fleet on the same period and also in 2008 (the baseline year for the levels of ambition identified in the Initial Strategy), and scenarios for future international shipping emissions in the period 2018-2050. It is intended that the work could start in Autumn 2019 for submission of the final report of the Study to MEPC 76 in Autumn 2020;
  • adoption of resolution MEPC.323(74) on Invitation to Member States to encourage voluntary cooperation between the port and shipping sectors to contribute to reducing GHG emissions from ships. This resolution aims to promote regulatory, technical, operational and economic actions in the port sector, such as the development of Onshore Power Supply (preferably from renewable sources), the provision of bunkering of alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels, the promotion of incentives promoting sustainable low-carbon shipping and the optimization of port calls, including facilitation of just-in-time arrival of ships (download here);
  • approval of a Procedure for assessing impacts on States of candidate measures for reduction of GHG emissions from ships. The procedure identifies up to four steps (from an initial to a comprehensive impact assessment) in order to facilitate the best possible anticipation of the potential impacts of candidate measures before adoption;
  • establishment of a multi-donor trust fund for GHG ("GHG TC-Trust Fund"), a new voluntary trust fund aiming at providing a dedicated source of financial support for technical cooperation and capacity-building activities to support the implementation of the Initial Strategy;

MEPC 74 also discussed a large number of candidate short-, mid- and long-term measures, and streamlined the different approaches into items for discussion at the upcoming meetings.

Finally, the Committee agreed to the holding of the sixth and seventh meetings of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, in November 2019 and March 2020 respectively, with the following terms of reference:

further consider concrete proposals to improve the operational energy efficiency of existing ships, with a view to developing draft amendments to Chapter 4 of MARPOL Annex VI and associated guidelines, as appropriate;

further consider concrete proposals to reduce methane slip and emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs);

consider a draft MEPC resolution urging Member States to develop and update a voluntary National Action Plan (NAP) with a view to contributing to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping, and develop associated guidelines, as appropriate;

further consider concrete proposals to encourage the uptake of alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels, including the development of lifecycle GHG/carbon intensity guidelines for all relevant types of fuels and incentive schemes, as appropriate;

consider the development of further actions on capacity-building, technical cooperation, research and development, including support for assessment of impacts and support for implementation of measures; and

consider other concrete proposals for candidate measures.

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.