Taking stock of where we are in the shipping world
4th January 2012 22:41 GMT

With 2011 having come to a close, it seems sensible to take stock of where we are in the shipping world following IMO MEPC 62 and its decisions on the EEDI and SEEMP (including the emission reduction assessment), as well as the outcome of the UNFCCC talks in Durban (read our briefing note on the talks here).

Two things are uppermost in my mind:

First, there is the inevitable reality check. Hindsight is a beautiful thing (and I have to be careful with it!) but looking back at the MEPC 62 negotiations, I wonder if they foreshadowed the change in negotiating tactics that we saw at COP 17 in Durban, namely the shift from the 'clear cut' difference between developed countries and developing countries to a less polarised negotiating approach. Possibly but not necessarily is my answer to myself.

However, we can no longer assume that the ‘historical line up’ when it comes to greenhouse gas negotiations at MEPC and at UNFCCC will remain the same as we move into the negotiations associated with the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action. I am going to have ‘fun’ in 2012 following the shifting support and linkages between countries in negotiations both at the two MEPC sessions in 2012 and at the meetings associated with UNFCCC. We definitely live in interesting times!

The ‘buzz’ word to emerge from Durban in relation to future climate agreement seems to be ‘equity’. And I wonder how that word will translate into the language used during the forthcoming MEPC discussions on greenhouse gas emissions and how it will work with and separate from the other two key phrases I have heard used a lot since 1997, namely ‘common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR)’ and ‘no net incidents’.  There is a whole new language and understanding of specific ‘words’ to be developed at both the IMO and UNFCCC as we move forward –  it will be interesting to see how the interpretation of what ‘equity’ means shifts over time.

Second, I’m pondering what the next developments might be. Even though we all seem to descend into a glass is half empty mood following MEPC and UNFCCC events, 2012 provides two MEPC meetings and I hope that these will:

* find time to tackle some of the other environmental issues on the MEPC table (the challenge for shipping is not just greenhouse gas despite what the press tells us)
* see a move forward on narrowing the options related to market-based measures (Japan and the World Shipping Council (WSC) contributed to this effort at the IMO MBM intersessional meeting this year, but we need more movement)
* complete work on the EEDI and SEEMP – work the industry can be proud of – and enter the next round of discussion at UNFCCC with the important message that “shipping has the first global sector agreement that mandatorily reduces GHG emissions”.

These are not just my personal views. They are echoed in the IMO briefing on Durban in which the Secretary General acknowledges the need for MEPC to move forward.

So, as I look forward to the festive season and some rest, I am envisaging a positive future for the shipping industry. And wishing everyone a happy new year, too.

Anne-Marie Warris,
4th January 2012 22:41 GMT