Pacific delegates played a crucial role in discussions at the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) talks on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies, aimed to make a significant impact on combating climate change and safeguarding the region’s vulnerable ecosystems.

Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were among several voices who strongly called for the IMO member states to adopt an ambitious, science-based target to reduce GHG pollution from shipping and align it to the Paris Agreement temperature goal.

The IMO has adopted an enhanced GHG reduction strategy at its 80th Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting. IMO’s revised GHG Strategy includes an enhanced common ambition to reach net-zero GHG emissions from international shipping close to 2050, a commitment to ensure an uptake of alternative zero and near-zero GHG fuels by 2030, as well as indicative check-points for 2030 and 2040.

Fiji’s Minister for Public Works, Transport and Meteorological Services, Ro Filipe Tuisawau advocated the Pacific’s case at the meeting.

“Coming to a consensus on the indicative check points and other parts of the strategy, was not an easy task, but one that was only achieved through understanding and consensus. The strategy reaffirms IMO’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping through just and equitable transition. This strategy sets the pathway to achieving decarbonisation by 2050,” Tuisawau said.

Delegates had voiced deep concerns over the existential threat posed by climate change to their vulnerable nations. With rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidification, and intensifying extreme weather events, Pacific countries are at the forefront of the adverse impacts caused by global warming.

Photo: SPREP

Recognising the urgency to address the maritime sector’s significant carbon footprint, the Pacific island nations demanded the adoption of ambitious targets that reflect the latest scientific understanding and align with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Ioana Efeso, of Samoa, said: “This is only the beginning and Samoa looks forward to working with all member states and delegates from the industry and civil society, in a collaborative manner that is truly inclusive and transparent, which will see shipping stepping up to the plate and fulfilling its responsibilities to reduce emissions.”

Pacific countries are also demanding greater transparency, accountability, and reporting mechanisms to monitor progress and ensure that the adopted GHG reduction targets are met, emphasising the need for comprehensive data collection and sharing, enabling effective evaluation of the industry’s efforts and identification of areas for improvement.

The IMO has set four levels of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping. The first level is to reduce the carbon intensity of ships, which means the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of cargo transported. The second level is to reduce the overall GHG emissions from international shipping. The third level is to increase the use of zero or near-zero emission technologies, fuels, and energy sources in international shipping. The fourth level is to achieve net-zero GHG emissions from international shipping by or around 2050.

During the MEPC 80 meeting, it was evident that the IMO and its member states are dedicated to taking concrete action against marine plastic litter from ships. By prioritising this critical issue and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, the IMO is setting the stage for a cleaner, more sustainable maritime industry and a brighter future for our oceans.

The voices of the Pacific delegates served as a powerful reminder of the immediate action required to address the environmental challenges faced by vulnerable nations. Their unwavering call for alignment with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal resonates with the imperative to safeguard our planet for future generations. In the Strategy, the Committee recognises that developing countries, in particular LDCs and SIDS, have special needs with regard to capacity-building and technical cooperation.

Photo: SPREP

SPREP’s Pollution Adviser, Mohammed Zullah, said: “Overall, the adoption of the revised GHG strategy is a positive step forward for the fight against climate change. The IMO’s 2023 GHG Strategy is a comprehensive and it is essential that the government and shipping industry works together in the regional to implement these targets.”
SPREP acknowledges the support of, and contribution by the project related to Capacity Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries, phase 3 (ACP MEAs Phase 3) funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).