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EU renews push for ship emissions caps

Date: 11/11/2010

The European Union has reinforced its push for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions caps on shipping, urging the upcoming UN climate convention (UNFCCC) conference in Cancun to act in the absence of such action from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The EU has already signalled an intention to act unilaterally and impose GHG caps on shipping in the region if action is not taken by either IMO or the UNFCCC.

A European Council meeting of environment ministers formulating EU positions for Cancun concluded last week the UN conference “should urge ICAO [the International Civil Aviation Organisation] and IMO to develop without delay a global policy [emissions reduction] framework in a manner that ensures a level playing field and that does not lead to competitive distortions or carbon leakage.” The ministers also reaffirmed the EU’s call for global GHG emissions reduction targets for international aviation and maritime transport, consistent with the plus-2°C global warming limit.

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) considered emissions reduction options earlier this month but did not reach final agreement on technical and operational measures and convened a working group to give further consideration to proposed market-based measures. 

While welcoming the recent progress made on aviation emissions by ICAO, IMO’s sister UN agency for air transport, as an important first step in stabilising aircraft emissions, the Council said only that it “looks forward” to progress in the inter-sessional working group meeting of the IMO in the spring of 2011.”

In reference to a political stalemate in IMO over conflicting global equity principles between it and the UNFCCC, the EU Council said any policy frameworks drawn up for aviation and shipping “should be in accordance with the principles and customary practices of ICAO and IMO, taking into account the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC in the use of potential revenues.” 

This suggests that it sees the way to resolve the dispute, essentially between developed and developing countries, is to apply emissions restrictions equally to ships of all nations but to distribute any tax or permit revenues raised in favour of developing countries.

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