More than 170 nations agree to halve shipping emissions by 2050

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European Union countries, along with the Marshall Islands, the world's second-biggest ship registry, had supported a goal of cutting emissions by 70 to 100% by 2050, compared with 2008 levels.

With Friday's Carbon dioxide agreement, the global shipping sector has for the first time set a specific target for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The strategy's targets are not binding, and the MEPC has characterised the document as a framework that demonstrates the level of ambition across the IMO's member states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There was limited opposition to the deal with Saudi Arabia and the United States expressing reservations.

Shipping now accounts for around 2.5 percent of global GHG emissions, but this is expected to rise steeply, so that by 2050 it will account for 16 percent of the total carbon budget agreed by the 2015 Paris climate deal, believed to be what's required to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C. "Preparations on longer term actions should also begin", Bulc and Cañete said in a joint statement. "It will require rapid technological changes to produce zero-emission ships, moving from fossil fuels, to a combination of electricity (batteries), renewable fuels derived from hydrogen, and potentially bioenergy", said Tristan Smith, an expert on energy and shipping at the University College London's Energy Institute. This working group will be tasked with developing a programme of follow-up actions to the Initial Strategy; further considering how to progress reduction of GHG emissions from ships in order to advise the committee; and reporting to the next session of the MEPC (MEPC 73), which meets 22-26 October 2018.

"What happens next is crucial", said John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, an umbrella organisation of environmental NGOs.

Reaching agreement wasn't an entirely straightforward matter, it didn't appear, with seeming disparities between countries' public commitments to the Paris goals and what they were actually willing to agree in the way of reducing emissions, according to the Financial Times.

IMO has already adopted global mandatory measures to address the reduction in GHG emissions from ships. But the IMO Secretary General stressed that the agreement was only an initial strategy, a "starting point", with the final roadmap to be finalised by 2023.