The IMO has established an Intersessional Working Group on GHG emissions (ISWG GHG) as a technical body to develop the initial IMO Strategy, which reports to the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC). It is the MEPC which will then make decisions on whether that strategy should be adopted or not.

In 1997 the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO was given mandate to work on air pollution and emissions from ships and a new annex was inserted to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

The regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships (Annex VI) address minimizing airborne emissions from ships (including: SOx and NOx) and their resultant impacts on local and global air pollution. Annex VI entered into force in May 2005 and a revised Annex VI with more stringent emissions limits was adopted in October 2008 and entered into force in July 2010. Whilst MEPC has made progress on many aspects of air pollution, work on GHG emissions reduction has been slow.

In 2016 RMI lodged a submission (MEPC 68-5-1) calling on IMO to act on GHG emissions reduction and MEPC 70 agreed a Roadmap to develop an IMO Strategy on GHG emissions reduction. Since then Pacific Island IMO members have participated in the special Intersessional Working Group (ISWG GHG) meetings to develop an initial strategy.

MEPC 71 considered the report from the first ISWG GHG (see MEPC 71 WP.5 and WP.7) with the final report including the discussions on GHG emissions (agenda item 7) (see MEPC 71 IMO Final Report) and the Roadmap as Annex 11 (see MEPC 71 Annexes). Pacific Island sponsored papers to MEPC 68 - 71 and related materials are in "Pacific Islands in the IMO".

Since then there have been six Inter Sessional Working Group on GHG (ISWG-GHG) and three MEPC meetings although now severely behind schedule as a consequence of covid-19, with the seventh ISWG GHG scheduled in October 2020 and MEPC 75 in November 2020 to be held remotely.

The focus of these meetings has been what an impact assessment process should entail, to enable consideration of short-term measures. These in turn have focused on technical and operational measures and are still to be agreed. MEPC 75 will also consider adopting of voluntary national action plans and a proposed international maritime research fund raised by a fuel tax to subsidise research and development in the sector.

The 4th IMO GHG Study will also be considered by MEPC 75, and reports a 9.6% increase in total GHG emissions from international shipping between 2012-18, a 151% increase in methane emissions, and for the first time includes black carbon (a particulate not a gas). The projections are for a 50% increase in shipping emissions by 2050, completely the wrong direction if the targets in the Initial IMO Strategy are to be met.

It is increasingly apparent that much faster and substantial actions are needed and the urgency for emissions reduction is increasing, time is running out. This means that those measures which can have the most significant impact in driving the transition of the sector needed must be prioritised and agreed. All research shows that this means agreeing a carbon tax (which is considered a potential candidate medium term measure). You can find out more on this issue and other IMO GHG emissions reduction related materials here.

Pacific written submissions to these meetings have covered key issues including:

Pacific States have also submitted papers to Council calling for equity in IMO decision-making and participation by providing support to States such as SIDS and LDCs to enable their participation in IMO meetings, similar to that provided in other UN fora.

Relevant IMO reports are available here:

  1. MEPC 70-18 - Report Of The Marine Environment Protection Committee On It...
  2. MEPC 70-WP.7 Report of the Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships
  3. MEPC 71 IMO Final Report
  4. MEPC 71 Annexes including Country Statements
  5. MEPC 71-WP.5 - Report of the first meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions (Secretariat)
  6. MEPC 71-WP.7 - Report of the Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships (Secretariat)
  7. MEPC 72-7 - Report of the second meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions (Secretariat)

Useful links: