Cutting shipping emissions could raise billions to help developing countries fight climate change says Oxfam

By Oxfam

The shipping industry can do more to tackle climate change and raise much needed funding to help developing countries cope with its devastating impact, said humanitarian organization Oxfam America ahead of a major meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) starting in London on Monday.

Oxfam is calling on government officials and international shipping regulators to consider measures to reduce uncapped and rising shipping emissions, while at the same time raising billions of dollars a year in new climate funding through emissions trading systems. Progress on this would bring the world closer to raising the $100 billion per year pledged by developed countries at last year’s UN climate talks to help poor countries protect themselves from the impacts of climate change and develop in a low carbon way.

“This is a chance for shipping to go from scourge to solution when it comes to the climate crisis,” said Heather Coleman, senior climate change policy advisor for Oxfam America.  “The industry could help vulnerable communities access the resources they need to fight climate change by both controlling a rising source of emissions and generating desperately needed funding to cope with their devastating effects.”

The global shipping sector was responsible for 847 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2007 – this is higher than Germany and 15 of the top 20 emitting countries including the U.K., France and Saudi Arabia.   Emissions from the shipping sector have doubled since 1990 and the upward trend is predicted to continue at a rate of 2.5 per cent per year.  Mid-range emissions scenarios show that, by 2050, in the absence of policies, ship emissions may grow by 150% to 250% (compared to the emissions in 2007) as a result of the growth in shipping. 

“Shipping plays a vital role in maintaining vibrant global trade but it is also a major cause of climate change. The International Maritime Organization could implement a fair system to control emissions, that won’t penalize trade from developing countries and will provide some of the vital resources needed to tackle climate change.”

The IMO is a specialized agency of the UN that governs international standards to regulate the shipping industry. Members are gathering for a five-day meeting from Monday 27th September – Friday October 1st.  Among other agenda items, the meeting will consider an internal expert report into possible mechanisms to control greenhouse gas emissions and raise revenues which could be used as climate finance.   The IMO is meeting just ahead of the next round of UN climate talks in China (4th–9th October) and the last gathering of the Advisory Group on Finance (AGF), which was established to identify ways to raise the $100 billion per year pledged at Copenhagen. The group’s recommendations are due to be published in October.

“Despite continuing economic struggles, developed governments can raise the funding required to help poor countries cope with climate change without dipping into their cash strapped budgets,” said Coleman. “The shipping industry can’t do it alone, but it can be part of a package of innovative finance-raising measures including those addressing uncapped emissions from international aviation, grants from developed countries and a re-direction of fossil fuel subsidies. No stone should be left unturned in the search for new climate funding and the shipping industry must play its part to ensure poor communities get the resources they need.”


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