By Barry Parker (gCaptain) –
With the all-important MEPC 80 meeting only a week away, the preparation work at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is now in its final stages.
IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim told The Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 15), which began a week-long meeting to prepare the revision of the IMO’s Greenhouse Gas Strategy, called for “being ambitious and bold”.
Although the plenary meetings of the MEPC (Marine Environmental Protection Committee) such as MEPC 80 receive a great deal of attention, much of the technical work and development of proposals takes place behind the scenes, between meetings of the working group of maritime experts chaired by Sveinung Oftedal, the one “Day job” at the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment.
Another group, dubbed the “Ad hoc expert workshop on possible medium-term greenhouse gas reduction measures,” met at the end of May with 380 participants. This meeting provided further background on the issues to be covered at MEPC 80 and most importantly also included a liaison with UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which looks at the broader economic and geopolitical landscape. For example, UNCTAD had played a crucial role in negotiating the summer 2022 deal that allowed grain exports from Ukraine.
According to IMO, ISWG-15 participants will address two main topics this week. First, “the finalization of the draft IMO strategy for 2023 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships”. And second, “the further evaluation and selection of measures, both technical and economic”.
The overall strategy is likely to see a revision of the IMO’s “initial strategy” of 2018, which aimed for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from maritime transport by 2050 (compared to 2008). It’s possible that next week MEPC delegates could agree on a “revised strategy” aiming for a 100 percent reduction by 2050, but that’s by no means certain. The technical and economic elements (the fuel standards and mechanisms to finance the switch to new fuel alternatives) are essential to achieve the new ambitions that can be agreed.
According to IMO, “It is expected that during MEPC 80 a working group will be established to finalize the draft strategy following plenary statements.” This follows the pattern of previous meetings where the positions of the 170+ members were presented in the main session (the “plenary session ‘) and then a working group meets, sometimes late into the night (UK time), to work out details. and then reports to the assembly on the last day of the MEPC meeting.
However, with the much-anticipated MEPC 80 conference just a week away, it remains to be seen how bold MEPC delegates will actually be when it comes to moving the target posts towards maritime decarbonisation.