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UN Shipping Body IMO fails on Black Carbon, lives up to reputation for Climate Inaction

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London, April 7th, 2022:- A week that opened with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lambasting governments and industry for their climate inaction, and the IPCC’s Climate Mitigation report criticising the poor climate governance of international shipping, is set to close with the UN’s shipping agency, the IMO, again kicking climate concerns into the long grass, by failing to reduce the climate impacts on the Arctic fromthe black carbon emissions responsible for 20% of shipping’s climate impact, said the Clean Arctic Alliance today [1,2 3]. 

Ahead of the meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Pollution Prevention and Response sub-committee PPR 9, which ends on Friday, April 8th, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on the IMO’s member states to slash the impact of black carbon emissions on the Arctic by developing a mandatory regulation requiring a switch to distillate or alternative cleaner fuels or methods of propulsion for vessels operating in or near Arctic water, and to start work to agree a fuel standard that would reduce black carbon from shipping globally [4,5,6,7]. 

“The IMO has this week completely failed to take any significant steps or agree any action which would see significant reductions in black carbon emissions from shipping and its warming impact on the Arctic – despite our calls for immediate and deep emission cuts”, said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of 20 non-profit organisations working to persuade governments to take action to protect the Arctic, its wildlife and its people. 

“Instead, and despite the urgent calls from the UN Secretary General, the IMO has wasted the past week agreeing to terms of reference that will result in the development of non-binding recommendatory guidance, without prioritisation of actual measures that would guarantee black carbon emission reductions.”

“During PPR 9, the IMO failed to reach agreement on even the simplest of mandatory measures – a switch to cleaner fuels for ships in the Arctic – which would have seen an immediate reduction in black carbon emissions of around 40% [8]. The IMO’s Arctic nations must take the lead, by putting an end to its culture of prevarication and procrastination, by starting today to support and enforce the reduction of black carbon emissions from ships”, she added.

“Climate scientists warn that we are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts. But, high‑emitting Governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye, they are adding fuel to the flames”, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during a speech to mark the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III 6th Assessment Report on Climate Mitigation, on April 4th [9,10]. 

In March 2022, temperatures in the Arctic were recorded at 30 degrees Celsius above normal levels for the time of year [11]. With the Arctic warming at three times faster than the planet as a whole, the impacts will undoubtedly have serious repercussions further south. 

When black carbon, a short-lived climate-forcer responsible for around 20% of shipping’s climate impact (on a 20 year basis), is emitted from the exhausts of ships and settles onto snow and ice, it accelerates melting and the loss of reflectivity – the albedo effect – which creates a feedback loop that further exacerbates local and global heating. Learn more about black carbon here [12]. 

“We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5°C limit agreed in Paris. Some Government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic. This is a climate emergency”, said Guterres during his April 4th speech.

“This week, the IPCC urgently called for immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors – and that includes shipping – and in response the IMO has supported a ‘balanced approach’, which sound like bywords for inaction”, added Prior. “If ‘balance’ refers to the shipping industry’s desire to continue using the heaviest, dirtiest fuels while installing scrubbers, discharging scrubber wastewater into the oceans, and emitting black carbon, then, as the UN Secretary-General said, then they are lying about taking action, and must be counted amongst the ‘dangerous radicals’ he spoke of on April 4th”.

During PPR 9, instead of agreeing to regulate the shipping industry to move to cleaner fuels and methods of propulsion to reduce black carbon emissions, the IMO agreed to develop recommendations on goal-based guidance (i.e. a goal is agreed but everyone is allowed to decide for themselves on how to achieve the goal). 

The IMO has thus delegated responsibility to individual countries to decide whether or not to act on the guidance. While increasing numbers of countries supported the need to regulate black carbon emissions, many countries argued that it is still too soon for mandatory measures – despite the IMO being tasked 11 years ago with identifying measures to reduce them. PPR 9 also considered guidance on how to operationalise ongoing scrubber pollution of the oceans – which allows the ongoing use of the heaviest, dirtiest fuels associated with high emissions of black carbon.

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Hoesung Lee, during the Climate Mitigation Report launch [13]. 

“For too long, the IMO has been out of step with other UN agencies on climate change and is in effect acting as a rogue element within the UN system. The time for this nonsense is over – the IMO must face up to its responsibilities, putting its priorities in line with the UN on climate change, and use the collective political power and technological knowhow of the shipping industry to not only drastically limit shipping’s contribution to the global climate crisis but also to show leadership through decarbonisation of the industry”, concluded Prior. 

Infographic: Tackling ships’ black carbon emissions in the Arctic through EU action

Video Q&A: Why the EU’s Fit for 55 Package of Climate Regulations Must Include Black Carbon from Ships

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Notes:
[1] UN Secretary-General Warns of Climate Emergency, Calling Intergovernmental Panel’s Report ‘a File of Shame’, While Saying Leaders ‘Are Lying’, Fuelling Flames
https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sgsm21228.doc.htm

[2] “Improvements to national and international governance structures would further enable the decarbonisation of shipping and aviation”, Summary for Policymakers IPCC AR6 WG III, C.8.4
https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg3/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_FinalDraft_FullReport.pdf

[3] International Council on Clean Transportation, Black carbon emissions and fuel use in global shipping, 2015 – International Council on Clean Transportation
https://theicct.org/publication/black-carbon-emissions-and-fuel-use-in-global-shipping-2015/

[4] Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response, PPR 9 , 4-8 April 2022 https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/MeetingSummaries/Pages/PPR-default.aspx

[5] About Black Carbon: https://cleanarctic.org/campaigns/the-arctic-climate-crisis/black-carbon-in-the-arctic/

[6] April 4, 2022: PPR 9: Governments Must Cut Shipping’s Black Carbon Emissions to Save the Arctic
https://cleanarctic.org/2022/04/04/ppr-9-governments-must-cut-shippings-black-carbon-emissions-to-save-the-arctic/

[7] 26 November 2021: NGOs Welcome IMO Agreement to Cut Black Carbon Impacts on Arctic https://cleanarctic.org/2021/11/26/ngos-welcome-imo-agreement-to-cut-black-carbon-impacts-on-arctic/

[8] International Council on Clean Transportation, The International Maritime
Organization’s Proposed Arctic Heavy Fuel Oil Ban: Likely Impacts And Opportunities For Improvement
https://theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/Arctic-HFO-ban-sept2020.pdf

[9] UN Secretary-General Warns of Climate Emergency, Calling Intergovernmental Panel’s Report ‘a File of Shame’, While Saying Leaders ‘Are Lying’, Fuelling Flames
https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sgsm21228.doc.htm

[10] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III 6th Assessment Report on Climate Mitigation
Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change
https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-3/

[11] Heatwaves at both of Earth’s poles alarm climate scientists, Associated Press, March 19, 2022.
https://phys.org/news/2022-03-hot-poles-antarctica-arctic-degrees.html

[12] Arctic Council Reykjavik Declaration 2021 on Arctic warming three times fast
https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/bitstream/handle/11374/2600/2021%20Reykjavik%20Declaration%2020-5-2021.pdf

Arctic Council Arctic Climate Change Update 2021 – Key Trends and Facts
https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/2621

International Council on Clean Transportation, Black carbon emissions and fuel use in global shipping, 2015 – International Council on Clean Transportation
https://theicct.org/publication/black-carbon-emissions-and-fuel-use-in-global-shipping-2015/

[13] IPCC Press Release April 4th, 2022: The evidence is clear: the time for action is now. We can halve emissions by 2030.
https://www.ipcc.ch/2022/04/04/ipcc-ar6-wgiii-pressrelease/

About the Clean Arctic Alliance
Made up of 20 not-for-profit organisations, the Clean Arctic Alliance campaigns to persuade governments to take action to protect the Arctic, its wildlife and its people. 
Members include: The Altai Project, Alaska Wilderness League, Bellona, Clean Air Task Force, Green Transition Denmark, Ecology and Development Foundation ECODES, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth US, Global Choices, Greenpeace, Iceland Nature Conservation Association, International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union, Ocean Conservancy, Pacific Environment, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Stand.Earth, Transport & Environment and WWF.

For more information visit https://www.cleanarctic.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CleanArctic

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