Open letter to IMO Member States supporting mandatory speed measure to reduce shipping emissions

Effectively addressing climate change is possibly the greatest challenge of our time. In 2015 world governments agreed in Paris that global temperature rise must be limited to well below 2ºC, while aiming for 1.5ºC compared to pre-industrial levels. A recent IPCC 1.5ºC Special Report also recommended "deep emissions reductions" to achieve these temperature goals.

In responding to this global challenge, member states of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) agreed in April 2018 on an Initial GHG Strategy for international shipping. The strategy calls for shipping emissions to peak as soon as possible, for shipping's carbon intensity to be reduced by at least 40% by 2030 and for total emissions to be cut by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while aiming for full decarbonisation. To do so, new operational measures will need to be implemented for both the existing fleet and new ships and immediate reductions achieved by 2023.

Since the April 2018 agreement several candidate measures have been proposed including speed the 2008 economic crash led to dramatic reductions in GHG emissions. This speaks to the real-world effectiveness of a potential prescriptive speed measure in helping achieve reduction targets. However, recent studies also suggest that ships are speeding up again as global demand recovers. Should this trend continue, any GHG gains from slow steaming over recent years will disappear.

The signatories to this letter unite in stressing the urgent need for shipping to make its appropriate contribution to addressing climate change. As the initial step we express our strong support for the IMO implementing mandatory regulation of global ship speeds differentiated across ship type and size categories. Our preference would be to set maximum annual average speeds for container ships, and maximum absolute speeds for the remaining ship types, which take account of minimum speed requirements. Such a regulation should be implemented as soon as possible and the obligation for compliance should be placed both on shipowners and operators, including charterers.

We call on all Parties at the forthcoming MEPC74 to support this move.

The Open Letter can be found on the Transport & Environment website.