Decarbonisation Technology - November 2023 Issue

Reducing GHG emissions from international shipping

The International Maritime Organization’s revised strategy and future plans

Eddy Van Bouwel EvBo Consult

T he International Maritime Organization (IMO) holds responsibility for regulating emissions from international shipping. The IMO is a United Nations agency headquartered in London, and brings together 175 Member States (IMO, 2023). IMO established GHG reduction ambitions for the first time in 2018, when an initial GHG strategy was adopted (IMO, 2018). The initial strategy included the ambition to ‘reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while, at the same time, pursuing efforts towards phasing them out entirely’. Importantly, the initial strategy included a commitment to review the strategy every five years. IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) was given a timeline to adopt a revised GHG strategy in 2023. Revised IMO GHG Strategy A revised strategy was adopted at the 80th

session of the Committee in July 2023, significantly raising the level of ambition and the speed to reach net zero GHG emissions (IMO, 2023). The most significant change is the adoption of a net zero GHG target by or around 2050. In addition, indicative checkpoints have been added for 2030 and 2040, including the ambition to have at least 5% of the energy used to be from near-zero GHG technologies by 2030. The initial and revised strategies are summarised in Table 1 . Current emission levels and outlook to 2050 As all targets are expressed as percentage reductions vs 2008, it is interesting to look at the most recent emissions data vs 2008. IMO’s Fourth GHG study, published in 2020, provides an authoritative reference (IMO, 2021). Over time, different methodologies have been used to estimate GHG emissions from international


Initial IMO GHG Strategy (2018)

Revised IMO GHG Strategy (2023)

As soon as possible

Peak GHG emissions as soon as possible Reduce carbon intensity by at least 40% Uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emissions technology: at least 5%, striving for 10% of the energy used Indicative checkpoint: reach at least 20% total annual GHG emissions, striving for 30% reduction Indicative checkpoint: reach at least 70% total annual GHG emissions, striving for 80% reduction

By 2030

Reduce carbon intensity

by at least 40%

By 2040

By 2050

Pursuing efforts towards 70% carbon intensity reduction Phase out emissions as soon as possible in this century

By or around, i.e. close to 2050: reach net-zero

GHG emissions


Table 1 IMO 2018 and 2023 GHG Strategies (all % reduction targets are relative to 2008)


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