Climate change – let those landlubbers take care of it. Photo: Shenghung Lin - BY-NC-ND

Shipping lobby hinders progress at the IMO

Shipping has a carbon footprint roughly matching that of Germany, and its emissions are projected to grow significantly up to 2050.

A new report by the business lobbying watchdog InfluenceMap says that the shipping industry has aggressively lobbied the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) to obstruct climate change action for shipping. The report was released just ahead of the second meeting of the IMO’s Intersessional Working Group on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships in October.

Despite being responsible for close to three per cent of the global emissions of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, shipping is still not subject to any specific emission reduction targets.

According to a recent European Parliament report, shipping could be responsible for 17 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if left unregulated, potentially jeopardising global ambitions set out under the Paris Agreement.

The report by InfluenceMap concludes that progress on regulation has been hindered by powerful shipping trade associations, led by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). The ICS, alongside the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the World Shipping Council, have jointly opposed action on climate change at the IMO and lobbied to delay implementation of any climate regulations until 2023.

By analysing delegate lists, it was shown that at the most recent IMO environmental committee meeting nearly one third of nations were represented in part by direct business interests. The report said that the IMO appears to be the only UN agency to allow such extensive corporate representation in the policy-making process.

According to the report, the shipping sector is maintaining its business model regarding carbon emissions by capturing the regulatory process. It also points out that the shipping sector’s lack of disclosure contrasts with increasing investor expectations of more such disclosure, as shown by the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations on climate risk.

It is pointed out, however, that AP Moller-Maersk is a key exception, by being transparent on its climate policy positions and appearing to support ambitious action on climate policy. Moreover, that Maersk has been joined recently by some Scandinavian companies and national shipowners’ associations that appear supportive of action to decarbonise the shipping industry. The report notes that this indicates a “potential for a future coalition of progressive voices in shipping to promote greater corporate climate policy disclosure and action on climate at the IMO”.

Commenting on the InfluenceMap report, UK shipping executive Andrew Craig-Bennett wrote that its conclusions were basically right, and that “We all know that if we try to regulate emissions by measuring fuel consumption, and so on, people in our business are going to cheat. It’s what people in our business do. The only way to keep ourselves honest is to ban the infernal combustion engine altogether, along with the external one, and to adopt zero emissions”.

He continued: “…the only sensible proposal before the IMO is the one coming from the Pacific Islands – including the Marshall Islands – calling for zero emissions by 2035. That would give us 17 years to scrap every ship on the planet and replace them with ships that do not consume hydrocarbons and emit greenhouse gases when in operation”.

Christer Ågren

Sources:, 23 and 26 October 2017;, 26 October 2017.

The report “Corporate capture of the IMO – How the shipping sector lobbies to stay out of the Paris Agreement on climate” (October 2017) by InfluenceMap.




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