The first set of short-term targets in International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) efforts to decarbonise shipping amount to a 2% annual reduction of carbon intensity across the global fleet from 2023-2026
Partway through the 76th meeting of the Marine Envrionment Protection Committee (MEPC), IMO delegates have formally adopted a set of short-term goals aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of the global shipping fleet’s emissions.
In what was reported to have been a charged political atmosphere behind the scenes, IMO adopted initial carbon intensity indicator (CII) guidelines that will measure and assess emissions metrics on vessels greater than 5,000 gross tonnes, aiming to lower the carbon intensity of the vessels by 2% per year from 2023 to 2026.
These targets can then be reassessed and new targets set after 2026, according to the agreement.
The CII guidelines’ agreement covered adopting CII reduction factor guidelines, guidelines on operational CIIs, CII calculation methods as well as measurement reference lines and rating guidelines for ships. Vessels will be assessed and given a score of A through E annually, with the performance score recorded in another MARPOL instrument: the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). Vessels with the lowest scores of D and E for three consecutive years will be required to submit a "corrective action plan" detailing a plan for improvement and achievement of metrics in a higher tier (A, B or C).
An IMO statement ahead of MEPC 76 said the CII measures will "require ships to combine a technical and an operational approach to reduce their carbon intensity in line with the ambition of the Initial IMO GHG Strategy, which aims to reduce carbon intensity of international shipping by 40% by 2030, as compared to 2008."
Along with the operational carbon intensity reduction requirements that would be based on the new operational CII, on the technical side, the new measures will utilise the new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) to measure carbon intensity reduction, according to IMO.
The agreement comes amid a relatively high degree of political scrutiny after US and European leaders have, in recent weeks, focused increased pressure on the global shipping regulator to make faster progress on decarbonisation.
Those and other critics of the plan, including environmental NGOs, have pointed out that it does not include enforcement measures and have said it does not go far enough in addressing what could be a net rise in emissions from the shipping industry to 2030, even taking into account the new carbon intensity reduction targets.
Opening the week-long MEPC 76 meeting, IMO secretary general Kitack Lim invoked the spectre of patchwork regional regulations arising should IMO not make sufficient progress on its global decarbonisation framework.
"The stakes are high, adoption of short-term measures at this session is crucial to our ability to deliver on the commitments we have made in our initial strategy," he said.
"Let me be blunt, failure is not an option, as if we fail in our quest, it is not unreasonable to conclude that we run the risk of having unilateral or multilateral initiatives, but I have full confidence that you will demonstrate that the IMO can be trusted to deliver on commitments it has already agreed."
The CII is expected to come into force 1 January 2023, and a panel of experts debated the disruptive ramifications of the regulation for shipowners and operators during Riviera Maritime Media’s Vessel optimisation: a digitalised approach to CII compliance webinar. In a poll, attendees of the webinar said they felt CII will be useful for company strategy and vessel optimisation. Some 92% of the audience believe that CII is likely to become a key performance indicator for shipowners and operators after its implementation in 2023.
CII is designed to be vessel-specific, to force companies to address efficient operations on board each vessel and to prevent companies from using newbuild vessels to average out carbon intensity across a fleet.
The CII rating for a ship is expected to change regularly, becoming stricter over time and panellists said that, as this happens, many shipping companies will be forced to determine whether to invest in existing ships or to sell them for demolition.
Discussion of shipping industry emissions was given further prominence by the recent G7 summit at which Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States met in the UK in the week preceding IMO’s MEPC 76 and during which climate policies, including shipping’s decarbonisation work, were discussed. The G7 formally committed to a ’green revolution’ focused on job creation and adhering to the UN’s Paris Accord on climate-related issues.
Shipowning organisations from the same group of seven countries simultaneously gathered in the UK, forming the M7 maritime group of nations and laying out their own commitment to seafarer welfare and emissions reduction. The M7 group issued a statement backing a US$5Bn research and development fund for shipping decarbonisation technologies as part of the International Maritime Research and Development Board proposal that is under discussion at MEPC 76.
The statement said the M7 group of shipowning organsiations "fully support the need to decarbonise and agreed that if the industry is to meet its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050, large-scale investment in research and development is necessary. Without this, we simply will not have the technologies needed for the greener, cleaner shipping industry that we all want”.
The MEPC session will also consider mid- and long-term decarbonisation measures which include discussions around new fuel and propulsion technologies. Notably, discussions covering a long-standing agenda item, the implementation phase of the ballast water convention, have been pushed back a year, to 2022, currently slated for discussion at MEPC 77.