Intersessional Meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) from Ships, 23-27 October 2017

By way of background, MEPC 71 approved the terms of reference for an Intersessional Meeting of a Working Group on GHG with terms of reference to :
1.further develop the structure and identify core elements of the draft initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships;
2.develop draft text for inclusion in the initial GHG Strategy;
3.further consider how to progress the matter of reduction of GHG emissions from ships and advise the MEPC Committee as appropriate; and
4.submit a report to MEPC 72
This was the second of three meetings of the working group and the final one will take place next year during the week before MEPC 72 in April 2018.
The draft outline of the structure of the initial IMO GHG Strategy was noted by MEPC 71 as follows, and this will be maintained :
!.  Preamble/introduction/context including emission scenarios
2. Vision
3. Levels of ambition
    Guiding Principles
4.  List of candidate short-, mid-, and long-term measures with possible timelines and their impact on States
5,  Barriers and supportive measures; capacity building and technical cooperation, R & D
6.  Follow-up actions towards the development of the revised Strategy
It should be noted that as this meeting was that of a working group, no interpretation facilities were extended.  All business was conducted in English only and congratulations must go to the majority of delegations for expressing themselves so well in a second language. However, notwithstanding such notable linguistic skills, it has to be recorded that very little, if any, progress was made other than that of increasing the number of options inserted into the base document plus a further plethora of square brackets, indicating that the text therein remains to be agreed at a future session.  Member States in particular, seemed unwilling to compromise on virtually everything and appeared intent only on hardening their previous entrenched positions which did little to promote the goals/objectives of the Strategy ambition seeking to match the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
One of the more interesting facts to emerge during the prolonged Debate was divulged by IMarEst which showed that carbon intensity of international shipping has started to decrease such that the figure for 2015, is 34% less than that recorded for 2008, thus it should be taken into account when defining the levels of ambition based on carbon intensity.  A further submission summarising  a new report entitled ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Shipping, 2013-2015 sponsored by the International Council on Clean Transportation, also gave much pause for thought.  The key findings claimed that : fuel consumption is increasing; shipping GHG emissions are also increasing despite improvements in operational efficiency for many ship classes; black carbon is a major contributor to shipping’s climate impacts; increases in efficiency have not reduced absolute CO2 emissions from ships; the biggest ships are speeding up and [as a result] emitting more (claimed separately to be 4% for Oil Tankers and 11% for the larger Container Ships); and finally that absolute reductions in ship emissions will require concerted action to improve the energy efficiency of shipping and to develop and deploy alternative fuel and propulsion concepts.
A draft discussion document of the working group (ISWG-GHG 2/J/8) provides the many options put forward for consideration at the next meeting in April 2018 and can be viewed on the InterManager Web-Site.
Capt. Paddy McKnight

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