A new strategy is expected to set global shipping on an ambitious path towards phasing out greenhouse gas emissions, top UN officials said at the opening of the latest session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in London on Monday.
“Humanity is in dangerous waters on climate,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message at the start of MPEC’s latest session.
“Science tells us it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C, but it requires an immense and immediate global effort, and shipping, which accounts for almost three per cent of global emissions, will be vital.”
The decisions “you take over the coming days could help us chart a safer course”, he said, urging Committee members to agree on a strategy forward.
Legacy in the making
Tasked with addressing environmental issues under the remit of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Committee tackles such issues as the control and prevention of ship-source pollution covered by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), including oil, chemicals carried in bulk, sewage, garbage, and such emissions from ships as air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.
Gathering from 3 to 7 July to review ongoing efforts, the Committee is expected to adopt a greenhouse gas emissions strategy in response to climate change and threats to biodiversity, following meetings with IMO.
“This is a historic moment in which all of you have a role to play,” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, encouraging States to help roll out the new strategy by forging ambitious targets that will put shipping on a “clear trajectory” to phase out greenhouse gas emissions.
“The 2023 strategy will be your legacy, for which your children and grandchildren will be grateful,” he said. “The time for IMO to demonstrate its global leadership is now.”
The revised strategy is expected to set out the way forward for possible technical and economic measures to be further developed by IMO.
Biodiversity and maritime future
Underlining the importance of concrete legal measures to project biodiversity, he recalled that nearly two decades of discussion had led to the landmark Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), adopted at the UN headquarters on 19 June 2023.
Together, with the Kunming-Montreal Global Framework for Biodiversity, adopted last December and ongoing negotiations for a new legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution, he said “there is no doubt that your Committee’s efforts to ensure a greener, more equitable and more sustainable maritime future is of greater importance than ever before”.