MEMBER states of the International Maritime Organization adopted the 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships.

The revised strategy includes what the IMO called an “enhanced common ambition” to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping close to 2050 and a commitment to ensure an uptake of alternative zero and near-zero GHG fuels by 2030.

The strategy also includes two checkpoints between now and 2050. The first, aims for the average carbon intensity of international shipping to decline by at least 20%, but striving for 30% by 2030 (compared with 2008).

 The second checkpoint comes in 2040, and the strategy says international shipping should reduce its total annual GHG emissions by at least 70%, striving for 80% (again compared with 2008).

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said the adoption of the new strategy was a “monumental” development, opening a new chapter towards maritime decarbonisation.

“At the same time, it is not the end goal, it is in many ways a starting point for the work that needs to intensify even more over the years and decades ahead of us. However, with the revised strategy that you have now agreed on, we have a clear direction, a common vision, and ambitious targets to guide us to deliver what the world expects from us,” Mr Lim said.

“Above all, it is particularly meaningful, to have unanimous support from all member states. In this regard, I believe that we have to pay more attention to support developing countries, in particular SIDS and LDCs, so that no one is left behind,” he said, referring to small island developing states and least-developed countries.

The new trategy sets out a timeline towards adoption of measures and adoption of the updated 2028 IMO GHG Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships.

International shipowners association BIMCO said the outcome of the meeting was “groundbreaking”, saying the new strategy translates to a reduction of around 90% on average at the individual ship level due to expected fleet growth.

According to BIMCO, newer ships already on the water and those on order will exist well beyond 2040 and the emissions reduction outlined in the strategy will apply to these ships.

BIMCO President Nikolaus Schües said he recognises the monumental change the shipping industry is now facing.

“I cannot stress strongly enough to my colleagues in the industry that this is already happening as we speak. The profound change in the way ships must be built, operated and fuelled will impact every shipowner on the planet. Investment decisions need to be reassessed, designs need change and business models will be forever impacted,” Mr Schües said.

“Climate change affects all of us and serves as a reminder that actions to limit our emissions must be taken urgently. BIMCO is grateful to the IMO member states for setting out in clear terms the pathway the shipping industry needs to follow in order to transition each and every ship in the world fleet to a net-zero GHG emission future.”

World Shipping Council president and CEO John Butler said the new strategy marks a new beginning for shipping’s energy transition.

“There is much to do, and carriers are eager to continue the work together with regulators, fuel providers and technology providers to reach our shared climate targets,” Mr Butler said.

“Liner shipping is already investing in renewable fuel-ready ships, and today’s decision broadcasts a strong global signal for investment to the entire maritime sector. We are counting on the IMO member nations to press on with the important work of developing and adopting a robust regulatory framework that will make these fuels available and competitive. The next two years will be critical – for 2050 targets to be achievable IMO member nations must develop and agree on a lifecycle-based global fuel standard and economic measure by 2025, so they can be implemented by 2027.”

The International Chamber of Shipping welcomed the outcome of the MEPC 80 meeting.

Speaking at the close of the negotiations ICS deputy secretary general said the “historic” IMO agreement gives a strong signal to ship operators and, most importantly, to energy producers who must now urgently supply zero GHG marine fuels in very large quantities if such a rapid transition is to be possible.

“The checkpoints agreed for 2030 and 2040 are particularly ambitious. The industry will do everything possible to achieve these goals including the 70% to 80% absolute reduction of GHG emissions now demanded of the entire global shipping sector by 2040,” he said.

“But this can only be achieved if IMO rapidly agrees to a global levy on ships’ GHG emissions to support a ‘fund and reward’ mechanism, as proposed by the industry. We urgently need to reduce the cost gap between conventional and alternative marine fuels and incentivise the production and uptake of new fuels at the scale now required to meet this accelerated transition. 2040 is less than 17 years away and the availability of zero GHG marine fuels today is virtually zero.”