World shipping industry agrees to halve carbon emissions by 2050

Container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed to halve shipping's greenhouse gas (GHG) by 2050 despite many nations hoping for a larger reduction.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russian Federation also aired concerns with the proposal, such as suggesting an absolute cap on GHG emissions, but all agreed with the implementation of the initial strategy.

Some countries such as the Marshall Islands, which are at risk of rising seas but are also a major flag state, had wanted a stronger commitment and the European Union wanted a 70 to 100 percent cut.

The MEPC was meeting to bring the shipping sector in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 1.5C.

"While it may not be enough to give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes it clear that global shipping will now urgently reduce emissions and play its part in giving my country a pathway to survival", said President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Hilda C. Heine.

Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine also praised the deal.

"Today the IMO has made history. While it may not be enough to give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes it clear that global shipping will now urgently reduce emissions and play its part in giving my country a pathway to survival", she said in a statement.

Proposals for cutting carbon dioxide emissions in shipping have been under discussion for a number of years.

The US was a notable critic of the deal and reiterated that the country had withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and as such is not legally tied by the same legislature that other countries are.

Shipping now accounts for around 2.5 percent of global GHG emissions, but this is expected to rise steeply, so that by 2050 it will account for 16 percent of the total carbon budget agreed by the 2015 Paris climate deal, believed to be what's required to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C.

This landmark agreement, referred to as an initial strategy, is the first step towards formalising a climate action plan by 2023.

Shipping now represents 2-3% of global Carbon dioxide emissions and could reach 10% by 2050 if no action is taken, the Commission reminded.

Britain's Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani said the deal was a "watershed moment".

"Even with the lowest level of ambition, the shipping industry will require rapid technological changes to produce zero-emission ships, moving from fossil fuels, to a combination of electricity (batteries), renewable fuels derived from hydrogen, and potentially bioenergy", he said.

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