Opinion by Dr Peter Nuttall

Getting serious push-back to the Pacific’s high ambition from China, Brazil and their buddies was fully expected this week at IMO. Getting so completely thrown under the bus by a conflicted and hyperbolic West wasn’t.

Two headlines this week tell the sad story. IMO had the choice between adopting a high ambition, 1.5 degree aligned Strategy to decarbonise world shipping emission or something else.

Time magazine led its in-depth with – ‘The world may have just missed its chance to seriously tackle shipping emissions’, before detailing the saga of how big vested interests from the largest shipping and trading nations from both sides of the developed/developing firewall cooked an inadequate deal and scuppered the years of persistent science-based work of a small determined cohort of the most climate vulnerable states from the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean.

The resultant deal, now being spun in the wood-panelled walls of the IMO as a great victory for global consensus, is well short of the 1.5 aligned pathway the Pacific had mapped out and kicks the can on any real progress on shipping’s emissions by at least another 4 years.

Full of vagaries and niceties you can spin any way you like, the reality is that the West threw the Pacific under a bus in order to acquiesce to China et als take it or leave it low ambiton ‘compromise’ after a week of relentless bullying of the Pacific by big powers and the IMO Secretariat itself.

Susan Biniaz herself delivered a lesson in hard truths to Pacific ministers on behalf of Uncle Sam, telling them abruptly they had no choice but to buckle as well now that US had given the Chinese their nod of approval behind closed doors in the usual small group of big states.

The cowered European negotiators could not look the Pacific delegations in the eye, after their years of prevarication and double-speak cloaked as “constructive ambiguity” with many mumbling phrases like “live to fight another day” and “this is not the end, this is the beginning”.

The other headline arrived a day later on the Maritime Executive: ‘EU ETS could create US$20B liability for shipping between 2024 and 2026’.

Of course the Europeans could well afford their crocodile tears at IMO. While they have dithered and worked hard to appease everyone while effectively achieving nothing at IMO, at home in Brussels they have been very busy putting the final touches on their own market-based measure.

As of next year the EU will bring 50 percent of all international voyages in and out of Europe under their own ETS [(emissions trading scheme). From 2024 they start collecting taxes from the rest of the world to swell the EU coffers, initially, at around US$8 billion a year.

It goes up steeply from there. A handy nest egg to spend on subsiding their own green transition and ensure their industries are best placed to capitalise on the global decarbonisation trend. And a move that can only increase the growing inequity between large and poor.

Am I the only one who smells a dead rat. The wealthiest trading bloc in the world, and the one that has gained the most from the industrialisation and colonialism that has created this climate crisis, is going to tax the rest of the world and use the funds for its own further development. And it has proudly done so under the banner of the international principle of Polluter Pays.

If Europe has any morality left, it will immediately announce that all the profits it will make from its new tax on international shipping, every last penny, will be diverted as grants to the priority needs of the climate most vulnerable, starting with the most vulnerable of all, the micro island states of the Pacific.

It’s a big if. And I’m not holding my breath. The stench of dead rat is too overpowering.