Before starting my second maternity leave with a hectic schedule of supplying baby essentials, I wanted to share some personal hopes and reflections on the important year ahead for the IMO, the Albert Embankment UN institution in London where I have spent so many hours, and in a strange way have really missed.
The past two years of pandemic have demonstrated the importance of human interaction in international venues such at the IMO, where fruitful negotiations are key to secure progress. In the new era of working and meeting remotely, most would probably agree to the advantages of increased efficiency, convenience of avoiding commuting and travelling etc. BUT the format of IMO meetings is the one area where I can’t find a single advantage of a virtual set-up. The IMO being an international organization with some 170 Member States brings a level of complexity to Zoom meetings with regards to the time difference, translation constraints and time limited interventions which means that we end-up with long series of prepared statements taking most of the time and important agenda items often postponed. The pandemic has really demonstrated how working groups, coffee breaks, ad hoc meetings in the hallway and afterhours receptions are paramount to solve stalemates (the latter do occur in IMO GHG discussions, believe it or not!). Fingers crossed that MEPC 78 will be the last meeting (for now) where delegates cannot look each other in the eyes.
Fortunately, not least due to the Chairs of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) and Intersessional Working Group (ISWG-GHG) and the talented IMO Secretariat, the IMO has managed to take small but decisive steps forward. It is no secret that we, at Maersk, would have hoped for swifter progress. So, before leaving IMO negotiations in the hands of my talented colleagues here are my three ‘wildest dreams’ for MEPC 80 in Spring 2023 when I have returned from the ‘baby bubble’:
1. The IMO GHG Strategy will set an ambitious and science-based target for the sector:
The IMO needs a strong foundation in terms of targets. It is not merely a signal but a guiding star for all measures. Otherwise, it will be impossible to deliver on actual reductions. At Maersk, we have high hopes that the IMO will agree on a target of at least net zero emissions in 2050. Less than this will not bring shipping on the urgent pathway to decarbonisation. We also work for a strategy which does not only provide target but also points in a concrete direction for decarbonization. Therefore, we were proud to be part of World Shipping Council’s input to MEC 78 which points to six strategic elements to be included in the IMO GHG Strategy.
2. Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) implementation has run smoothly, showed potential and CII is on a good track for revision:
The CII will enter into force Jan 23rd 2023 and its revision is already up for discussion in the coming years. From the outset of the discussions about the so-called ‘goal-based measure’ 3-4 years back, it was considered highly controversial that the IMO would introduce regulation on the ‘operational part of shipping’. The measure is indeed demanding for the sector. It will require real action. At Maersk, we currently have more than 10 different departments involved in the work to implement the measure. Although we could have wished for stronger enforcement and better metrics to make the measure more accurate, CII remains the first actual, substantial measure intended to provide GHG reductions.
3. IMO Member States have agreed on the importance of Life Cycle Assessments:
At Intersessional Working Group meeting in March it was uplifting to witness a large majority of IMO states support full Life Cycle Assessments (i.e. considering emissions from shipping from a ‘Well-to-Wake’ perspective). There couldn’t be a more important regulation than this. Mid-term measures and carbon pricing are a lot ‘sexier’ but such measures will have little to no impact, if we don’t get the LCA guidelines right. Hopefully, with a Correspondence Group soon to be established concrete progress will be secured.
Finally, a reflection on the opposition which different IMO countries express to progressing on the reduction of GHG measures. At Maersk, we’re hunting for green fuels around the world and seeing the huge potential for Power-to-X and production of green fuels in different regions. When I report outcomes from the IMO meetings internally – not always reflecting unity at the IMO - colleagues often ask about the background for the opposition from some of the exact same countries where our colleagues are performing due diligence on potential green fuel projects. Shouldn’t they be interested in incentivising these fuels? There is indeed a ‘gap’ in these observed national interests in green fuels and the positions the same countries express at the IMO in terms of ensuring a market for them.
My take is that this is driven by a political dynamic which has been dominating IMO GHG discussions at least since before the adoption of the Initial GHG strategy in 2018. But there’s of course also a very legitimate concern about potential impacts on certain states of possible costs of GHG measures. This must be taken care of and from Maersk’s side, we believe that financial contribution must be collected from the shipping sector and channeled appropriately. Whether it is Levy, Emissions Trading or another type of fee is of less importance for us. We don’t believe that the revenue should be returned to the shipping sector, but instead it should be distributed to green projects and climate mitigation in developing countries. We hope that the abovementioned ‘interest gap’ will be smaller as the green fuel production develops exponentially the coming years.
I know that I won’t be able to completely let go of the thrilling IMO developments and I will likely be following the debates from the sideline in the coming months as I spend time with my family. See you at MEPC 80, don’t let me down!
For more information on our IMO position, check below: