A specialized agency of the United Nations with 168 member governments, the 50-year-old International Maritime Organization is responsible for safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical cooperation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping worldwide.
The committee said it will distribute interim guidelines on the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships to stimulate innovation and technical development of energy efficiency from the earliest design phase.
In addition, a guidance on the development of a Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for new and existing ships will be distributed. This incorporates best practices for the fuel efficient operation of ships and guidelines for voluntary use of an indicator that enables operators to measure the fuel efficiency of a ship.
Cargo vessel arrives in San Francisco. (Photo by Rcaguiat)
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos congratulated delegates to the week-long meeting for driving forward the Marine Environment Protection Committee's agreed action plan on greenhouse gas emissions from ships.
He said it "deserves to be recognized as compelling proof that IMO can, indeed, be entrusted with the regulation of international shipping on the issue of climatic change - an unequivocal message that needs to be heard, and fully understood, all over the globe."
Ships engaged in international trade contributed about 2.7 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, according to a newly released IMO report consulted during the committee meeting last week in London.
In the absence of global policies to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, the emissions may increase by between 150 and 250 percent by the year 2050 due to the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade, the study found.
But emission reductions are feasible through technical and operational measures as well as through the introduction of market-based reduction mechanisms, according to the report.
The committee agreed to work towards defining a plan for consideration of market-based instruments to serve as incentives for the industry to invest in more fuel-efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These instruments are intended to assist shipping companies in their climate change mitigation and adaptation activities, research and development, and emissions offsets.
The committee noted that there was a general preference for the greater part of any funds generated by a market-based instrument under the auspices of the IMO to be used for climate change purposes in developing countries either through existing or new funding mechanisms under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or other international organizations.
Ship near Cape Town, South Africa at sunset (Photo by Dave Nunez)
These measures are intended to be used for trial purposes until the committee's next session in March 2010, when they will be refined for decisions on their scope of application and enactment.
The committee said it will report its work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships to the climate change conference that the United Nations is to convene in Copenhagen in December 2009 to finalize a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of of 2012.
The outcomes of that conference will be taken into account in all its future work, the committee stated.
The committee agreed that any regulatory scheme applied to greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping should be developed and enacted by the International Maritime Organization "as the most competent international body."
Mitropoulos urged delegates to promote the successful outcome of the committee's session, by briefing their colleagues and, through them, the competent ministers in their home countries, in particular those who will participate in the Copenhagen climate conference.
He said these briefings will ensure that "the complexities of this most international of all industries are duly taken into account when shaping official policies and positions on the issue at hand - both at Copenhagen and at the post-Copenhagen rounds of consultations at IMO."
Mitropoulos declared, "the time for apportioning blame as to who is responsible for the state of the planet has passed. Now it is time for action."
"Developed and developing countries, industrialized and emerging economies alike," said Mitropoulos, "are left with no option other than to get together and, together, work out solutions that will serve well the good cause of reversing the route to planet destruction."
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.