IMO Mandates Fuel Consumption Data Reporting
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted new mandatory fuel consumption data collection requirements for ships, which will create a statistical basis for analyzing future options for reducing emissions.

MEPC approved a 2017-2023 roadmap for developing a 'Comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships,' with a view to adopting an initial GHG strategy in 2018.

The roadmap was criticized by observers as delaying action on emissions from international shipping by seven years, not setting any targets for GHG reductions, nor committing the sector to setting such targets in 2023.

28 October 2016: Although the entry into force of the Paris Agreement is imminent, a large share of global emissions – those from the international transport sector – are not covered by the Agreement. Following the adoption of a global market-based measure (MBM) by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) earlier this month, the UN specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has announced progress on its own path to lowering emissions.

At its 70th session, held from 24-28 October 2016, in London, UK, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted new mandatory data collection requirements for ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above. Under the requirements, which were approved at MEPC 69 in April, these ships will have to provide consumption data for each type of fuel oil they use. The ships subject to the new mandate comprise 85% of the sector’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The data collected are meant to serve as a foundation for determining future action to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships. During the meeting, MEPC approved a 2017-2023 roadmap for developing a ‘Comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships,’ with a view to adopting an initial GHG strategy in 2018. The activities under the roadmap include GHG studies and addressing questions such as what role the international shipping sector should have in supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The roadmap was criticized by observers as delaying action on emissions from international shipping by seven years, not setting any targets for GHG reductions, nor committing the sector to setting such targets in 2023.

Noting the collected data will enhance the IMO’s “credentials as the best placed and competent forum for regulating international shipping,” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said the IMO will inform the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC at the Marrakech Climate Change Conference in November “on the tangible progress made, proving to the world that IMO continues to lead in delivering on the reduction of [GHG] emissions from international shipping.”

An intersessional working group meeting on reducing GHG emissions is planned, subject to IMO Council approval, back-to-back with MEPC-71 in mid-2017. Climate change action in the shipping industry will not only support the Paris Agreement, but also Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts).

MEPC also took up a number of other environmental matters, which support SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) and a number of other SDGs. In his opening remarks at MEPC 70, Lim said SDG 14 is “at the heart of a sustainable use of the seas and oceans and has particular resonance for the work of this Committee.”

In another decision, resulting from early completion of a review of amendments adopted in 2008 to the International Convention for the prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL Convention), the Committee set 1 January 2020 as the effective date for compliance with a low sulphur fuel oil requirement for ships. Reducing the sulphur content of fuel oil to 0.50% mass/mass (m/m) at the most (down from the current cap of 3.5% m/m) is expected to lower sulphur oxide emissions and improve environmental and human health.

On the margins of the meeting, Lim met with indigenous leaders from the Arctic to discuss issues around climate change and the resulting increased shipping activity in Arctic waters. In a panel discussion featuring the visiting leaders, the ‘Arctic Voices’ shared with IMO delegates their experiences living on the front lines of the expansion of Arctic shipping. [IMO Press Release on Adoption of Data Collection Requirements] [IISD RS Story on Approval of Data Collection System and MEPC 69] [IMO Secretary-General Remarks] [IMO Press Release on Implementation Date for Sulphur Content Reductions] [MEPC 70 Meeting Information] [IMO News Updates]


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