MONDAY 1 MAY 2017: Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands have submitted a paper to the forthcoming meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) calling on shipping to show high ambition in tackling climate change causing emissions from shipping, in line with, Pacific Leaders calls for no more than 1.5 degrees warming.

The paper is one of five submissions to the IMO co-sponsored by a number of Pacific countries, (RMI, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu) with European and other countries under the banner of the High Ambition Coalition for Shipping.  The IMO has agreed to a Roadmap to set shipping’s role in combatting climate change and reducing Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the sector. The first meetings begin in June and July this year in London.

These Pacific island countries have supported a Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF) position paper prepared by Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands, as part of a High Ambition Coalition for Shipping.. The countries were represented by their Ministers of Transport and/or Energy at the Third Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministerial Meeting held in Nuku’alofa Tonga from the 26th to the 28th of April. The Ministers communiqué noted Pacific and European cooperation and leadership in the High Ambition Coalition for shipping to ensure that IMO provides its contribution towards the Paris Agreement goals.

This issue has long been a priority for the PIDF. With Marshall Islands and Fiji, the PIDF hosted a side event in Tonga, with invited speakers including Dr Tristan Smith from the University College of London, Mr Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General of the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), Dr Benoit Adam, Policy Advisor for the Federal Public Service for Mobility and Transport for the Kingdom of Belgium and Nicolas Udrea, the negotiator for France on GHG at the IMO.

The Pacific position paper noted that numerous declarations by Pacific leaders have called for the need to curb global warming within a 1.5 degree Celsius guardrail if the existential threat posed by climate change on their countries is to be combated.

The PIDF Secretary General said “The Pacific has long been advocating strongly for tougher measures in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The PIDF has insisted that these reductions come from all sources, including transport whether land transport, shipping or aviation. We need to see progress in emission reductions negotiations within the IMO and it is truly encouraging to see the same level of ambition that the Pacific took to the Climate Change negotiations at the UNFCCC, also making its way into the negotiations at the IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).”

The submissions lodge with IMO from the High Ambition Coalition for Shipping note the need for shipping to move rapidly to decarbonisation if Paris Agreement objectives are to be met. The Marshalls/Solomon’s submission requests that the IMO agree that the level of ambition in emission reductions should be high and an overall target for shipping’s emission reductions be consistent with a ‘fair share’ of the global burden of reductions necessary to achieve a target of no more than 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase.

The Ministers Meeting in Tonga focussed on “Affordable, reliable and sustainable energy and transport services” and it saw prime-ministers, ministers and officials from the region discuss the closely interacting topics of energy and transport decarbonisation, and climate change.

The meeting also discussed domestic shipping. Transport accounts for over 70% of the region’s energy demand representing approximately $1bn imported fossil fuel, a price often borne by governments through expensive subsidies, and in many island states a substantial proportion of this fossil fuel use is for domestic shipping. The Ministers endorsed a vision for the Pacific region of fossil-free shipping, a vision that through the Republic of Marshall Islands’ Micronesian Sustainable Transport Centre, located in the University of the South Pacific Majuro campus, is rapidly progressing towards becoming a reality.

Dr Tristan Smith from University College London (UCL) and one of the world’s leading scientists on this issue said, “The science is clear – without immediate and rapid decarbonisation of this major and growing source of GHG, 1.5 degree stabilization goal of the Paris Agreement cannot be aimed for, let alone achieved.” UCL is one of several leading global research centres offering support to the Micronesia Sustainable Transport Center.