Maersk and EU shipowners to launch Plan B following COP21

Headed by the Maersk Group, European shipowners will meet on one of the first days of 2016 to outline a Plan B after the failure to include shipping in COP21. The final objective is to set up a new global industrial alliance, sources tell ShippingWatch.
Photo: Maersk Line
Photo: Maersk Line

After COP21 in Paris finished as a major disappointment to large swaths of the global shipping industry, which was not included in the final pact, several key stakeholders have already agreed to launch a Plan B.

Representatives from the Maersk Group, the European shipowners gathered in the ECSA as well as the Danish Shipowners' Association will meet on one of the first days in 2016 with the exclusive purpose of accelerating the process of creating a more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping industry.

The meeting will, on the one hand, serve to assess why shipping failed to be included in a global climate pact, though the primary purpose will be to set out a battle plan for how the UN's International Maritime Organization, IMO, can increase the pace and make the decisions necessary to truly bring shipping on board the green transition.

John Kornerup Bang, chief climate consultant at the Maersk Group, already during the COP21 negotiations in Paris contacted European shipowners when it became apparent that shipping would not be mentioned specifically in the final pact. The parties then decided that it would be necessary to put renewed pressure on the IMO, which has for years been seen by many as dragging its feet and unable to push important decisions through.

"We're concerned on behalf of the industry. If the industry does not get on board with the green transition, it could risk losing its position as the most important mode of transportation. The sector will have to introduce its own green transition, otherwise it could result in regional legislation, which would be unfortunate as it opens the door to out-flagging. This is why we cannot just sit back and wait after COP21," John Kornerup Bang explains to ShippingWatch.

Renewed pressure on the IMO

This January, DFDS CEO Niels Smedegaard will take over as chairman of the European Community Shipowners' Associations, and ECSA has similarly - also during the COP21 negotiations - been calling for a quicker green transition in shipping than the pace the IMO has delivered so far.

And according to ShippingWatch's sources, it was mainly pressure from nations such as China and India that resulted in shipping - along with aviation - not being included in the final Paris pact.

The meeting in January between representatives from ECSA, the Maersk Group and the Danish Shipowners' Association will, in John Kornerup Bang's words, create a renewed pressure on the IMO, which quite simply needs to work faster toward energy efficient solutions. He explains that the COP21 outcome, even though shipping was not included, illustrates that there is a basis for continued efforts.

Shipowners after COP21 defeat: This is grotesque

"The fact that shipping was not mentioned in the text only means that the IMO needs to pick up the pace even further. We need to call much more attention to the benefits - both in terms of the climate and financially - of setting clear requirements for the industry. Paris showed that it's possible to create the necessary global alliances, and the summit resulted in a consensus that would have been unimaginable just two or three years ago," he says.

The Danish Shipowners' Association plans to set out its own new goals to reduce CO2 emissions following the Paris summit. The existing goal of reducing CO2 emissions from Danish ships by 20 percent compared to 2008 has been met and surpassed, so now a working group will be set develop a new plan for the carriers.

"We will set a new target based on what Danish carriers are reporting. We absolutely support the international initiatives, as we know that other shipowners' associations agree with our position. The challenge in terms of the IMO, unfortunately, is that Paris brought an unclear mandate. Unless we do something ourselves, someone else is going to do it," says Maria Bruun Skipper, deputy director at the Danish Shipowners' Association.

Plan B

ShippingWatch has learned that, already at this point, there are plans with the end goal to form a new global industry alliance aimed at putting a renewed and completely different level of pressure on the IMO than has been the case so far. Most likely, the Plan B agenda is to touch base rather soon with countries that are not among the world´s environmental front-runners, such as India and China. John Kornerup Bang declines to comment on the goals of the efforts in a broader and global context, merely adding that there is a need to bring as many countries as possible - and countries that may not have been highly active in environmental efforts - onto the field.

One of the reasons that numerous European shipowners' associations are concerned relates to the fact that CO2 emissions from shipping, according to a range of surveys, are expected to increase significantly over the next decades. Most recently, the European Parliament projected that emissions from shipping will account for 39 percent, against three percent today, if the industry is not regulated.

Several NGOs also criticize the shipping industry, and more explicitly a group of major shipping nations, for instance in Asia, for not being part of the final climate pact. These NGOs include Transport & Environment and Sea at Risk, which state that the IMO will have to deliver in 2016. The London-based maritime organization's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will meet in April and October - meetings that will now be subject to a wholly different public focus.

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