Shipping emissions, which escaped attention during United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate talks in Peru in December, have emerged on the agenda at negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, this week.
Over 190 nations gathered in Geneva from February 8 to 13 to work on a draft negotiating text, due to be finalised at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) climate change talks in Paris in December.
At this stage of the process, all countries were able air their views and propose different solutions. It has resulted in the formal negotiating text swelling from 38 pages from talks in Lima last year to close to 100 pages.
Shipping and aviation have been targeted in new text added by the European Union (EU), calling for both sectors to cap their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to help keep global warming in check.
The new text said: "Parties agree on the need for global sectoral emission reduction targets for international aviation and maritime transport and on the need for all Parties to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop global policy frameworks to achieve these targets.”
It maintains earlier text saying the ICAO and the IMO should be encouraged to "develop a levy scheme to provide financial support for the Adaptation Fund," taking into consideration the needs of developing countries.
As the text is only a draft for the COP 21 negotiations in Paris, the EU’s latest additions could be subject to further changes, or even be dropped, at a later stage.
It does, however, signal that the IMO may be called upon to move forward on discussions that have been stalled due to political wrangling over how to reconcile the UNFCCC principle of ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR)’ – whereby developing countries are treated differently – with the IMO’s principle for treating all ships in the same way, regardless of flag.
The IMO has already implemented binding energy efficiency standards for new ships, ensuring the world fleet will become increasingly efficient at transporting cargo.
However, even the most promising efficiency gains look set to be outweighed by the projected growth in shipping activity, resulting in net CO2 increases from the sector, according to the IMO’s latest greenhouse gas (GHG) study.
With transport emissions from both shipping and aviation set to grow, pressure will grow for both sectors to be included in a new climate pact at COP 21 in Paris, to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The next step in the process is for negotiators to narrow down options in the text from Geneva and reach consensus on the content. Formal work and negotiations on the text will continue in Bonn in June, with two further formal session planned for later in the year prior to the crucial Paris meeting.