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First Ever GHG Rules Agreed for Ships

The UN’s maritime agency has adopted the first mandatory greenhouse gas reduction rules for the shipping industry.

The agreement by 55 of the world’s biggest shipping nations, adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization on Friday, also creates the first ever mandatory, global GHG reduction regime for any international industry, the IMO said.  The rules will apply to all ships over 400 tons, requiring those built after 2013 to improve efficiency by 10 percent, rising to 20 percent for ships built between 2020 and 2024, and 30 percent for ships built after 2024, the Guardian said.

The regulations are expected to cut GHGs by 45 million to 50 million tons a year by 2020.

However, the IMO may also grant a waiver, sought by China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, which could effectively push the regulations’ effective date to 2019.

Carbon Positive said the measures are expected to slow growth in shipping emissions rather than creating actual reductions. The IMO did not discuss more extensive market-based measures, such as levies and emissions trading, though these were due to be considered at the meeting.

Friday’s deal is also unlikely to satisfy the European Commission, which is seeking to bring shipping into the Emissions Trading Scheme, as it has done with airlines, the Guardian said.

In March the EU said it is crafting tools to limit emissions from maritime transport because the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been unable to agree on such measures for over a decade. The commission said then that global maritime transport accounts for almost three percent of carbon dioxide discharges, and emissions from ships are expected to more than double by 2050.

“Although not by consensus – which of course would be the ideal outcome – the Committee has now adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI introducing mandatory technical and operational measures for the energy efficiency of ships,” IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos said.  “Let us hope that the work to follow on these issues will enable all members to join in, so that the service to the environment the measures aim at will be complete.”

The amendments to the Annex VI regulations for the prevention of air pollution make it mandatory for new ships to adhere to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), a minimum efficiency standard for ship designers and builders, and for all ships to follow Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEEMP), which establish a mechanism for operators to improve ships’ energy efficiency. These plans are specific to each ship and meant to be kept on board during operation, Carbon Positive reports.

In related news, the EC has published proposals to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping fuels by up to 90 percent, and fine particle emissions by up to 80 percent. The benefits for public health should be between EUR 15 and 34 billion, far in excess of expected costs of EUR 2.6-11 billion, the commission said.

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