Global Debate on Shipping Emissions

GS Paper 3 

News Excerpt:

Debates at the IMO meeting heightened over the proposed imposition of a charge on greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping sector.

Proposal for Emissions Charge:

  • Discussions at the IMO meeting intensified over the imposition of a charge on greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping sector.
  • Supported by a coalition of 47 countries, including the EU, Canada, Japan, and climate-vulnerable Pacific Island states.

Support for Emissions Charge:

  • Putting the Emission charge into effect could bring in more than $80 billion a year.
  • Funding could be directed towards developing low-carbon shipping fuels and supporting transitions to cleaner technologies.
  • Urgent action is emphasized to meet IMO's emission reduction targets by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Opposition and Concerns:

  • Major emerging economies like China and Brazil oppose the levy, citing potential negative impacts on trade and economic growth.
  • Concerns raised about the adverse effects on GDP across developing countries, particularly in Africa and South America.

Alternative Solutions:

  • Proposal for a global fuel emissions intensity limit with penalties for breaches.
  • Advocated by countries like Argentina, Brazil, and China to ensure a swift energy transition while minimizing disruptions for developing economies reliant on sea-borne trade.

Compromise and Path Forward:

  • Efforts to reach a consensus on global measures to prevent fragmentation of the market with varying local standards.
  • Suggestions include designing the emissions charge primarily for emissions reduction rather than revenue generation.
  • Proposals to delay decisions on revenue allocation to circumvent political divisions and expedite progress towards a comprehensive agreement.


As discussions continue, stakeholders must navigate complex geopolitical dynamics and balance environmental imperatives with economic realities. The outcome of these deliberations will shape the future of international maritime policy and determine the industry's contribution to global climate efforts.

Key Points about the International Maritime Organization (IMO):

  • History: Established as a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) in 1948, the IMO aims to develop international treaties and mechanisms for maritime safety, trade facilitation, and pollution reduction.
  • Membership: With over 170 member states, the IMO is governed by the Assembly, consisting of all members, and the Council, composed of 40 members, meeting twice annually to oversee the organization's operations.
  • Headquarters: The IMO is headquartered in London, United Kingdom, and operates under the leadership of a Secretary-General, who serves a four-year term.
  • Policy-Making Bodies: Safety proposals are submitted to the Assembly by the Maritime Safety Committee, which meets annually. Additionally, various committees and subcommittees address specific issues such as the environment, legal matters, and dangerous goods transport.
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS): Established in 1992 and fully operational by 1999, the GMDSS provides integrated communications using satellites and radio to aid ships in distress, enhancing maritime safety.
  • Recent Conventions: In the early 21st century, the IMO adopted conventions related to environmental protection, such as prohibiting harmful chemicals in antifouling systems (2001) and regulating ballast-water management (2004).
  • Maritime Security: In response to the 9/11 attacks, the IMO bolstered maritime security efforts, amending key conventions and enforcing new security regimes to enhance safety against unlawful acts in maritime navigation.
  • International Contributions: The IMO plays a crucial role in setting global standards and regulations for maritime safety, security, and environmental protection, ensuring safe and sustainable shipping practices worldwide.


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