Global Shipping Body Adopts 50% GHG Emissions Reduction Target

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Announced last week, the United Nations International Maritime Organization has adopted a new commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the sector, seeking to peak emissions “as soon as possible” and to reduce annual emissions by at least 50% by 2050.

Meeting in London last week, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted new goals and targets that would lay out “a pathway of CO2 emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.” The IMO’s “Vision” is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “from international shipping and, as a matter of urgency, aims to phase them out as soon as possible in this century” and focus on three “Levels of Ambition” that seek to prioritise “technological innovation” and introduce alternative fuels and energy sources.

More specifically, the IMO laid out its intention to reduce the carbon intensity of ships through the implementation of further phases of the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) for new ships. It also seeks to reduce the carbon intensity of international shipping overall, reducing CO2 emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, and “pursuing efforts” of increasing that reduction to 70% by 2050. Finally, the IMO seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by having the peak and decline “as soon as possible” and reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 as compared to a 2008 baseline, while at the same time pursuing efforts to phase them out completely.

This initial strategy was adopted by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), during its 72nd session at IMO Headquarters in London this past week, which was attended by more than 100 Member States.

Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72)

Speaking to the delegates, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “I encourage you to continue your work through the newly adopted Initial GHG Strategy which is designed as a platform for future actions. I am confident in relying on your ability to relentlessly continue your efforts and develop further actions that will soon contribute to reducing GHG emissions from ships.”

Of course, this new “Ambition” is in no way legally binding, but rather represents a framework from which IMO Member States can set out their own regulations and levels of ambition. The IMO has provided “short-, mid- and long-term further measures with possible timelines and their impacts on States” and has also identified barriers and potential supportive measures that could help implement Member State plans, including capacity building, technical cooperation, and research and development.

Editor’s note: James Ayre on Planetsave adds, “Notably, the final deal seems to mirror the terms being sought by the government of Norway, but is far less than what the Marshall Islands and the European Union had been aiming for. Those parties had reportedly been aiming for carbon emissions reductions of between 70–100% by 2050 (as compared to 2008 levels). Opposition to such goals was voiced by the USA, Panama, and Saudi Arabia, amongst others. It’s not clear where or who voiced the most opposition to the more stringent plans.” A commenter below also notes that China seemed to be pushing for no decrease in emissions.

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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