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Environmental protection runs aground at the IMO

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environmental protectionCommercial interests in the shipping sector appear to be trumping the need for environmental protection, with progress on moving towards making shipping a sustainable transport form significantly slowing down.

This is the view of WWF, following a meeting of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) marine environmental protection committee in London this week, which met to discuss matters relating to various issues including reducing harmful emissions/discharges and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Shipping accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and it is a strong growing emission sector which so far has escaped corresponding emission reduction targets.

“While some issues have advanced in this session, overall progress has slowed to a crawl on the key environmental challenges of the shipping industry, like reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, other pollutants like nitrous oxides and the translocation of alien species through ballasting operations,”  says Dr Simon Walmsley, Marine Manager at WWF International.

Over the past decades, the IMO – the UN body tasked to propose and adopt environmental/safety regulation for international shipping – has started or continued work on many fronts on a range of environmental issues and corresponding regulation.

But sustained progress on many of these has stalled – like discussions of market based measures that would put a price and cap on greenhouse gas emissions or addressing the risk from alien invasive species translocation through ships ballasting operations.

Walmsley says one problem is that the shipping industry seems to be stepping up their opposition to environmental regulation and have convinced many governments to oppose action.

“The industry claims to be a green form of transport, while in reality serious environmental impacts continue out of sight and out of mind. This is even more paradoxical as the IMO and its member states have designated 2013 as the year of sustainable development and wants to contribute follow-up efforts to Rio+20,” he says.

Most disappointing is the lack of progress in addressing greenhouse emissions.

“At the same time as humanity is pushing atmospheric carbon dioxide past the 400 ppm level, it seems like Parties have practically abandoned the greenhouse gas agenda item,” says Mark Lutes, climate change policy advisor at WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative.

“The industry is increasingly opposed to action, and governments have been conducting trench warfare repeating the same political discussions for years over points of principle rather than logic based on sound science.”


For more information please contact

Mandy Jean Woods / +27 82 553 4211 (please send SMS if urgent) @MandyJeanWoods

Dr Simon Walmsley

Mark Lutes / @MarkLutes

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