Global attention on climate change is focused this week on the role of shipping as the International Maritime Organisation meets in London. International shipping is a major and growing greenhouse gas emissions generating sector.  If it were a country, shipping’s emissions profile is similar to that of Germany or Japan. But unless strong action is taken by the industry now, these emissions are projected to grow to equivalent of all of Europe’s by 2050. This would undermine all international efforts to achieve a 1.5-degree target.

 Pacific states, led by the Marshall and Solomon Islands’ with support from Fiji and Tonga have been actively calling on the IMO to take urgent and ambitious action to develop a clear work plan for reduction of shipping’s contribution to climate change causing emissions.  Early last year the Marshall Islands were the sole submitter on this critical issue.  Shipping was not included in the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change in December.

But this week there are a record number of submissions from states and industry as to how the sector can determine is fair share of responsibility. The IMO is highly conscious that a global spotlight is now focused on its actions this week.

Today the IMO’s Maritime Environment Protection Committee has agreed to form a Working Group to report back on options by the end of the week.

Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and Tonga are leading a growing Coalition of High Ambition within the IMO with large and small states to press for immediate and decisive action in this working group. In today’s historic meeting they are being strongly supported from the floor by Fiji and Vanuatu. “Urgency and Ambition must be our watchwords today” was the advice of Solomon Islands Ambassador Mose to the Committee Chair this morning. He repeated Hon. Tony de Brum’s message to the IMO in April 2015, “In this cause, time is not our friend”.

The industry, long criticised for its slow response, is now coming on board with many of shipping’s lobby groups recognising that it is the industry’s best interest to ensure a measured and responsible pathway to a low carbon future is planned out. Failure to achieve this now will only result in greater pressure on the industry in the future.

PIDF continues to play a strong role in coordinating technical support to Pacific delegations on this critical and complex issue in partnership with USP’s researchers and their colleagues in leading European universities. It is an issue PIDF has championed since its first Summit in 2013.

As we saw in Paris last year, despite their small size Pacific leaders are again leading positive action on the world stage and demonstrating they can punch well above their weight.