IMO seeks global solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 8.6.2021 8.44
Press release
(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is due to meet between 10 and 17 June 2021. The aim of this remote meeting is to decide on a short-term measure to cut the greenhouse gas emissions of international shipping. Finland supports effective global rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A compromise was reached between Member States at the last meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in November 2020 concerning measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping in the short term. The weakness of this compromise is that it provides no effective punitive measures for ships that fail to take the required corrective action to reduce emissions. This hampers efforts to achieve the emission reduction target set for 2030. The measures are due to be finalised at the June meeting and would take effect from the beginning of 2023.

The IMO is seeking to reduce CO2 emissions from international merchant shipping in relation to transport performance, i.e. to achieve a 40 per cent improvement in carbon intensity by the year 2030. Like other IMO Member States, Finland is committed to this goal, and the methods to be decided now primarily seek to achieve it. The IMO is due to decide in coming years on ways of effecting a reduction of at least 50 per cent of the 2008 level in all greenhouse gas emissions caused by international maritime transport by the year 2050.

The June session will decide on a comprehensive emission reduction measure, with the primary focus not only on improving the energy efficiency of ships, but also on regulating their operational carbon intensity. Under the option favoured by Finland, the carbon intensity of international shipping should decrease by at least another 22 per cent between 2019 and 2030 to ensure a reduction in carbon intensity of at least 40 per cent over the period from 2008 to 2030. Finland has proposed an exemption for ice-strengthened vessels while moving in ice conditions. This would avoid imposing additional burdens on Finnish competitiveness due to winter navigation.

The meeting will also provisionally discuss market-based emission reduction measures. Finland supports the development and introduction of a global market-based emission reduction measure at the earliest opportunity. The idea now put forward by a few countries and the shipping industry of collecting marginal fuel levies into an international R&D fund may serve as a basis for a market-based measure. Finland nevertheless holds that the measure must clearly direct the abandonment of fossil fuels in maritime transport through carbon pricing. The distribution of Fund assets must pay particular attention to the Least Developed Countries and to Small Island Developing States.

The meeting will also discuss the impact on States of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scrubbers, ships' ballast water, reducing plastic waste from ships at sea, and underwater noise. Many of the original agenda items have been postponed to the next meeting due to shortening of meeting days arising from the coronavirus pandemic and remote connections.

Finnish attendees at the meeting will include representatives of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom), the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Provincial Government of Åland. The Government of Finland adopted a resolution on 6 May 2021 that also includes some priorities for international influencing to be applied at this meeting with a view to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

What are the next steps?

The Marine Environment Protection Committee is due to decide on a short-term emission reduction measure at its June meeting. If agreement is reached, then work will continue with finalisation of guidelines specifying the regulation. Accompanying negotiations are ongoing concerning medium and long term emission reduction measures and updating of the IMO greenhouse gas strategy before 2023.

If consensus is not reached or the final result is insufficient to meet the emission reduction targets set by the IMO, then pressure will increase for regional action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of international shipping, both in Europe and beyond. The European Commission has declared an intention to broaden EU emissions trading to include shipping. A proposal is due on 14 July 2021 as part of the Commission's Fit for 55 climate package. Details have yet to emerge on how European maritime emissions trading would be implemented.


Päivi Antikainen, Director of Unit, tel. +358 50 382 7101, paivi.antikainen(at), Twitter @PaiviAntikainen

Eero Hokkanen, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 50 476 0401, eero.hokkanen(at), Twitter @eerohokkanen