The United Nations climate change convention (UNFCCC) appears set to lay down an emissions trading approach for carbon emissions in the shipping sector at the Copenhagen climate conference despite calls by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that it is the one "uniquely qualified" to regulate the sector.
The shipping industry is thought responsible for roughly 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is under pressure to submit to emissions limits like other heavy-emitting industries. The IMO is a UN agency charged with regulating the sector since the 1950s.
Gauging views on the sidelines of the UN conference as it got underway this week, the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) World Climate Change Report found the IMO lobbying to retain responsibility for shipping emissions. IMO senior adviser Karin Sjolin-Frudd said that it had already laid down a process for regulating emissions at two meetings scheduled for March and September next year.
But the European Commission's climate change policy officer for shipping and aviation, Mark Major, said after going too long being unregulated UN delegates are likely to include the shipping sector in a global climate agreement to take effect from 2013.
The likely make-up of UNFCCC limits are industry-wide caps on carbon output hand in hand with an emissions trading scheme. A controversial draft text for a final climate agreement put together by the Danish hosts of the UN conference includes a yet-to-be-set emissions 2020 reduction target below 2005 levels for shipping. It calls for implementation through the IMO, and elsewhere commits to expanding carbon markets.
The IMO earlier this year instituted a trial of energy efficiency and technology measures as a first step to curbing emissions with a decision on market-based action like cap and trade put off to a later date. The voluntary trial is to be reviewed next March with further measures also to be considered at that time.