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Shipping industry agrees to halve carbon emissions

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Members of the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) struck a deal to halve carbon dioxide emissions from shipping by 2050 in a deal that would force the industry to redesign fleets, reported Taipei Times (Taiwan/China).

“The initial strategy envisages for the first time a reduction in total GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008,” the IMO said in a statement.

Major shipping nations, such as Saudi Arabia and the US, had objected to earlier drafts in two weeks of discussion at the 173-member organization based in London.

Some countries, such as the Marshall Islands — which are at risk of rising seas, but are also a major flag state — had wanted a stronger commitment and the EU wanted a 70 to 100 percent cut.

Yet, the agreement was widely hailed by stakeholders.

“This is a ground-breaking agreement — a Paris agreement for shipping — that sets a very high level of ambition for the future reduction of carbon dioxide emissions,” International Chamber of Shipping secretary-general Peter Hinchliffe said.

“We are confident this will give the shipping industry the clear signal it needs to get on with the job of developing zero carbon dioxide fuels so that the entire sector will be in a position to decarbonize completely,” he said.

Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine also praised the deal.

“Today the IMO has made history. While it may not be enough to give my country the certainty it wanted, it makes it clear that international shipping will now urgently reduce emissions and play its part in giving my country a pathway to survival,” she said in a statement.

“We were pushing for stronger targets but still a great step that IMO seeks to halve the shipping sector’s greenhouse gases by 2050,” tweeted A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest container shipping company.

Shipping and aviation are two sectors that were not covered by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a deal struck to cap global warming at “well under” 2°C by the end of this century.

The aviation sector two years ago agreed to an emissions plan, but shipping has taken longer, because its reliance on long-distance ships that run on bunker fuel makes it harder to cut carbon.

Shipping accounts for about 2 percent of global carbon emissions and that share could rise to about 15 percent if left unchecked, the World Bank said.

Friday’s deal was “a welcome first step,” the Climate Action Network said.

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