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04 October 2010

Choppy waters ahead for global shipping emissions deal

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Week-long International Maritime Organisation meeting fails to agree on mandatory mechanism for lowering the sector's carbon footprint
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meeting concluded in London late last week without reaching a deal on a mechanism for cutting the shipping industry's greenhouse gas emissions.

Further talks will be held in March, but it seems that officials have missed their last chance to reach a consensus before the start of the UN's Cancun Climate Change Summit next month.

Shipping is thought to account for about three per cent of the world's carbon emissions, but because it is not covered by the Kyoto Protocol the sector currently has no mandatory targets for cutting emissions.

Last week's IMO meeting was scheduled to discuss possible technical and operational measures to reduce shipping's emissions impact, but it concluded without a deal after members failed to reach agreement on a number of controversial proposals, such as a mooted plan for a sector-wide carbon levy or emissions cap-and-trade scheme.

According to Reuters reports, the meeting failed to bridge the gap between the positions of developed and developing countries, some of which refused to accept any mandatory measures should be introduced.

The failure to reach a deal will inevitably spark criticism from environmental groups who have accused the shipping industry of dragging its feet on the issue of carbon emissions.

However, John Aitken, secretary general of industry group Shipping Emissions Abatement and Trading (SEAaT), denied the charge telling Reuters that while progress towards a deal has been slow, he would "absolutely reject that the shipping industry is not taking this seriously".

The failure to reach an agreement further increases the likelihood that national and regional governments will introduce measures to curb shipping emissions.

The sector is likely to come under renewed pressure in Cancun to put forward an international plan for tackling emissions, while the EU has threatened to implement its own measures should the IMO fail to agree a deal by the end of next year.


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