UCL Energy Institute


IMO makes little headway on the building blocks towards equitable and climate aligned GHG strategy

5 July 2023

At a crucial point in the transition of global shipping, UCL Energy Institute researchers Aly Shaw and Tristan Smith have shared an overview of the latest Intersessional Working Group on Greenhouse Gases.

LNG carrier

The final working group meeting before the 80th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) saw talks heading in a direction not aligned with what is needed for a just and equitable transition.

MEPC 80 is a critical moment for the IMO because it coincides both with the adoption of a Revised GHG Reduction Strategy (Revised Strategy), as well as being the point that a set of policy measures key for enabling that strategy, move through to phase 3 – the stage that will see their finalisation.

As the IMO moves to finalise its revised strategy at MEPC 80, even now, key details remain undecided. These include:

  • The Levels of Ambition (LOA) for the Revised Strategy and in particular whether the Revised Strategy ambitions are aligned with a pathway that would limit global temperature increase to 1.5. 
  • The commitment to a lifecycle coverage of the emissions, and avoidance of shifting emissions from sea to land
  • Whether or not the Revised Strategy represents a commitment to a just and equitable transition
  • When the mid term measures might be adopted and enter into force.
  • The drafting being forwarded to next week’s negotiations include some further narrowing down of options, however there are still large ranges on key parameters for example the 2030 and 2040 interim GHG reduction targets (now proposed to be called ‘indicative checkpoints’), for which the current leading proposal is a 20% GHG reduction in 2030 and 70% GHG reduction in 2040, likely on a well-to-wake basis. If these numbers solidify in the strategy, it will not be possible to say the IMO’s GHG reduction strategy is directly or transparently aligned with the 1.5 temperature goal. 

Dr Aly Shaw, Policy Lead at UMAS said:

Like the emissions they hope to reduce, much remains in the air after this week’s IMO negotiations on the Revised GHG Strategy and candidate measures, and like some of the most vulnerable climate areas, the Members states too, found themselves poles apart on key issues. As all eyes turn to MEPC 80, the Member States must strive to deliver a strategy that is 1.5 aligned and committed to a just and equitable transition for shipping.”

The other key items that remain under debate include the shortlisting of the mid-term measures and the way equitable/fair/just transition is included and referenced in both the Revised Strategy and in relation to mid-term measures. Although there was significant and coordinated opposition to the levy proposals moving forwards for finalisation from MEPC 80, there was a majority who supported this to happen, and GHG pricing is currently on track to move forwards. There was a majority supporting that the IMO’s timeline for adoption of the mid-term measures is by 2025. 

Dr Tristan Smith, Director of UMAS said:

This is it – next week is the last chance to credibly align this critical sector and enabler of world trade with 1.5. The main text going into next week is not 1.5-aligned, but it still can be if there is a change in the dynamic.” 

Next week, the adoption of the Revised Strategy at MEPC 80 marks a pivotal moment for the international shipping sector. The decisions made during the week will shape the transition to follow. As the eyes of industry members, climate organisations, shipping stakeholders and nations turn toward the IMO, it will be a critical moment for identifying how the collective Members show their commitment to addressing the climate crisis and to enabling a just and equitable transition that leaves no one behind. 

Read the ISWG-GHG 15 overview by UMAS