An industry poll taken days after IMO delegates cut a landmark emissions deal has revealed a prevailing industry attitude that the agreed reduction in shipping industry emissions is not enough.
More than half the respondents to a poll taken at the Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference in Amsterdam said the IMO's milestone framework should set emissions reduction targets higher for the industry, while only 10% said it goes too far.
At the Marine Environment Protection Committee's (MEPC) 72nd session in London on 13 April, 171 of 173 IMO member states voiced support for the adoption of an initial strategy on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions from shipping, the terms of which aim to reduce total annual global shipping emissions by 2050 to at least half of 2008 levels.
Presenters at the conference also acknowledged the reality that CO2 regulations would be the next regulatory hurdle, following IMO's expected formalisation of a long-term GHG reduction strategy in 2023.
In his presentation on technologies being developed to meet emissions regulations, Caterpillar's cruise and ferry sector manager, John Shock, said the deal meant a regulatory focus on CO2 was inevitable.
"We know it's going to happen," he said, noting "the reality is, as we begin to look at CO2 emissions and other things, [meeting regulations] comes down to fuel consumption and efficiency."
Chelsea Technologies Group maritime manager Stephanie Lavelle gave the group a first-hand accounting of MEPC 72 and called on the maritime industry to do more to reduce its emissions.
"It has been highlighted that it is because of industry-based constituency and lobbying tactics over the years that so little action has been taken," she said. "But such tactics are generally a result of member states trying to protect the trade on which so many of their citizens solely depend."
Ms Lavelle acknowledged that charterers and ship operators are faced with sizeable financial investments to comply with regulations and used the cost, along with lack of clarity from regulating bodies, as reasons for stalling on compliance.
"These are the unfortunate facts," she said, "but even more unfortunate were the emotive speeches for the survival of entire countries that were heard continually at MEPC from small island member states. Homes are being lost, and countries are on a path to disappearing in just a few decades, as sea-level rise and ocean acidification accelerates with the loss of the polar ice caps."
Ms Lavelle said some member states were directly opposing the submissions from small island member states to take strong action immediately. Among those in opposition of the deal, the United States, Brazil, Russia, India and Iran, took the position that IMO should wait for the group to gather more data.
Although she welcomed the IMO agreement, Ms Lavelle said there was no reason to wait when shipping industry emissions were only rising.
"Despite efficiency improvements, [emissions] are going to be two to five times higher in 2050 than 1990," she said. "In comparison [to IMO's deal], the EU roadmap sets out a cost-efficient pathway to reach an 80% reduction target by 2050."
While some in the industry question whether the "goalposts" of the IMO deal will move - pushing back compliance dates or lowering emissions reduction goals, for example - she said that would not be the case.
"The IMO's integrity towards decarbonisation has come under scrutiny, and the political pressure the IMO has faced has certainly showed no signs of slowing down. They [IMO] have stated there will be no delays or exemptions."