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Thousands of cargo ships sail across the ocean every day, transporting everything from cars and clothes to plastic pellets and Garden gnome And their giant engine emits greenhouse gases into the air. The shipping industry plays an important role in global trade. As emissions continue to increase, regulators have begun to consider an ambitious but controversial idea: let shipping companies pay for their pollution.

At its June meeting, the International Maritime Organization agreed to discuss a proposal to price ship emissions at the next IMO meeting in October. In the slowly evolving and bureaucratic shipping field, even this subtle move is seen as a big step. The last time the UN agency formally debated “market-based measures” was eight years ago, but due to wide-ranging differences, this effort was eventually abandoned.

According to statistics, since then, the industry’s annual emissions have increased by nearly 10%. The latest research of the International Maritime Organization, Accounting for nearly 3% of the global total. If ships continue to burn oil instead of switching to zero-carbon alternatives, these numbers are expected to soar in the next few years as more ships travel on more routes, thereby undermining the larger scale of greenhouse gas control. Global struggle.

Experts say that existing policies to curb fuel consumption and improve energy efficiency are not enough to guide the industry on a cleaner path. Not only do we need to take stronger measures to reduce emissions from existing ships, but we also need to ensure that new ships can operate in a decarbonized world. Aoife O’Leary, the International Climate Director of the Environmental Protection Fund in London, said that the IMO’s action is “becoming more and more urgent”. At past IMO meetings, militant groups such as Ocean Rebellion found their own way to put pressure on regulators: leaking fake oil outside their London headquarters.

Make polluters pay

The main proposals on the IMO’s October agenda came from the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands-these two countries are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and severe droughts caused by climate change.

Pacific island nations have proposed to require shipping companies to pay $100 for every metric ton of carbon dioxide they emit starting in 2025.Then the price will increase every five years, making the use of dirty diesel fuel more and more expensive and using cheaper and cleaner options, such as ammonia, Hydrogen fuel cell, The next generation of sails, And shore charging infrastructure for ships to plug into.

This concept already exists in other companies. Worldwide, nearly 60 national and local carbon pricing plans include power plants, oil refineries, and steel mills. In Norway, ships tax the emissions of nitrogen oxides, a harmful air pollutant. These funds are used to invest in pollution reduction measures, such as building battery-powered ferries.

The proposal will use the funds raised to help countries most vulnerable to climate change adapt and decarbonize. It will also help shipping companies transition from dirty fossil fuels to developing and deploying emerging (and expensive) alternatives.

“This gives renewable technologies the opportunity to compete with the mature, highly polluting fossil fuels that threaten our islands,” said Albon Ishoda, the ambassador of the Marshall Islands to the IMO. Recently written About the proposal.

The Marshall Islands took the lead in launching climate action within the IMO.This country is in the world The third largest ship registry And rely on cargo ships to import food, medicine and other necessities. However, Ishoda and others warned that uncontrolled emissions pose an “existential threat” to the low-lying archipelago of 79,000 people. In 2018, the Marshall Islands played a key role in setting the International Maritime Organization’s first greenhouse gas reduction target. Efforts are now being made to ensure that ships truly achieve these goals.

Full speed shift

International Maritime Organization Climate strategy It calls for reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping by at least 40% by 2030 compared to the 2008 level. (Carbon intensity is a measure of ship’s carbon dioxide emissions and is related to the amount of cargo carried during the voyage.) The United Nations agency also hopes to reduce the industry’s total annual emissions by half by 2050.

At a video conference held in June, IMO members took short-term measures to require existing ships to meet energy efficiency standards and increase their carbon intensity by 2% annually from 2023 to 2026.Environmental groups and other critics say that policies are far from satisfying the organization’s own ambitions—not to mention limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius In the pre-industrial era.

“Everything done so far is as usual,” said Michael Prenh, who represented Solomon Islands in the IMO negotiations. “Therefore, someone must come up with a proposal that can really work.”

Industry analysts and even some well-known companies support pricing carbon emissions to accelerate investment in alternative fuels and the infrastructure required to produce, store, and distribute these fuels.

Trafigura, a global commodity trader, is pushing for a tax of between US$250 and US$300 per metric ton of carbon emitted — an amount that researchers say is required to completely change the way ships operate. Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, has called for a carbon tax of US$150. “Fossil fuels cannot always be cheaper than green fuels,” Maersk CEO Søren Skou stated LinkedIn posts last month. An industry-led plan aims to impose a tax of US$2 per metric ton of marine fuel.

Such measures have been strongly opposed by other shipping companies and export-dependent countries. Argentina, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia have warned that stronger climate policies will lead to higher costs for shipping food, metals, oil and other commodities, and damage their economies. The Cook Islands relies on freighters for basic imports and inter-island transportation, worrying that this will increase the cost of living.

Proponents say that the funds collected from the taxation could help mitigate any blow to the worst-hit countries. Both Prenh and O’Leary pointed out that the proposed tax of US$100 per ton is entirely within the normal price range of shipping fuel, which may fluctuate between US$200 and US$600 per metric ton. In other words, the industry is accustomed to absorbing additional costs when oil prices rise.

Prenh said that figuring out how the carbon price will work and how funds should be allocated “will be a struggle.” Supporters hope to reach an agreement before 2023-according to the International Maritime Organization’s standards, this is an urgent timetable.

Under pressure

The simmering carbon price debate comes at a time when regulators are facing increasing public scrutiny.

In early June, a few days before the meeting of the IMO negotiators, New York Times Publish survey It was found that UN agencies have “repeatedly delayed and downplayed climate regulations” at the request of companies and industry groups. There is also a new documentary filmed by European journalists called “Black trail,” accused the shipping industry of “pollution and impunity.”

EU officials are frustrated by the slow pace of the IMO and are starting to incorporate cargo ships into the European emissions trading system starting next year. The cap and trading plan has already limited emissions from power plants, manufacturing facilities, and airlines. Shipping accounts for a large share- About 13%— Total emissions from transportation in the EU.At the same time, in the United States, the Biden administration Said he would push The International Maritime Organization strengthens its goal to reduce emissions by half by 2050 to completely zero.

“If the International Maritime Organization wants to remain relevant, it must be strengthened,” O’Leary said.




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