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MEPC 63: Industry left divided and without resolution
8th March 2012 18:13 GMT

Although there was much debate at MEPC63 around market-based measures, the resulting postponement on a conclusive decision, pending further study, has left the industry divided and without resolution.

Strong opinions on the emissions trading system vs. bunker levy debate have left us in danger of becoming distracted from the central ‘million dollar question’: how can we develop shipping’s understanding of the value of carbon, building knowledge that will enable ship owners to save money and gain a competitive advantage, whilst also preparing for incoming regulation?

The outcome of MEPC63 may have effectively put a definitive MBM for shipping on ice for now, but this is no time to stall the progress that is being made in taking action on carbon emissions.

Now, more than ever, energy efficiency makes good business sense. As bunker fuel prices spike and the challenging market conditions bite, taking a proactive approach to CSR is becoming increasingly valued and central to maintaining competitive advantage. Not only do efficiency measures simultaneously reduce fuel consumption and therefore spend, at the same time the world’s focus on shipping’s stance against climate change continues to sharpen.

Stakeholders across the global supply chain are all placing greater importance on carbon emissions management. Major retailers driven by consumer interest in sustainability for example and for financial institutions, CSR is now a key criterion on which banks such as ABN Amro evaluate future funding.

So as the connection between sustainability and commercial success strengthens, the industry must start preparing for whichever regulation the future holds.

The first crucial step is to accurately measure carbon footprint, starting with every vessel and port.

This vital data will be used to set baselines and therefore emissions reduction targets. So not only is creating transparency the absolute foundation of any successful emissions reduction programme, it is particularly crucial for an emissions trading system.

Next, taking advantage of the latest and most effective technical and operational measures to reduce emissions in line with EEDI and SEEMP whilst monitoring reductions will result in genuine cost savings. Then ultimately, these reductions can then be turned into carbon credits and used in offsetting to lower carbon footprint even further.

Whilst we wait for further regulation to be agreed, the shipping industry must focus on both understanding that carbon has a price, as well as the proactive measures that can be taken to realise the value that it presents both now and in the years to come.

Helena Athoussaki,
8th March 2012 18:13 GMT

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