Action 5.1: Emission reductions through the IMO
The IMO is the main policy forum for global measures to reduce pollution from international shipping.
5.1b Advancing international regulations reducing black carbon emissions
5.1b Regulation/legislative proposals, Economic incentives
5.1b Intermediate-long term
5.1b Incremental, with transitional potential
The Action Emission reductions through the IMO is divided into two main components. Further develop a standardised black carbon sampling and measurement protocol (Component 5.1a) is a prerequisite for practical implementation of black carbon regulations and policies for international shipping (Component 5.1b).
The IMO’s MEPC has been considering the impact on the Arctic of black carbon emissions from international shipping since 2011, assigning its Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response to carry out a work plan in this area. The work plan was most recently renewed at 74th session of MEPC and includes the following:
i) consider regulating or otherwise directly controlling black carbon emissions from marine diesel engines to reduce the impact on the Arctic of black carbon emissions from international shipping,
ii) further consider the recommended black carbon measurement methods to be used in conjunction with i),
iii) develop a standardised black carbon sampling, conditioning and measurement protocol,
iv) submit a report to the 77th session of MEPC in 2021.
Component 5.1a. Further develop a standardised black carbon sampling, conditioning and measuring protocol
Some black carbon control policies, like those involving an emissions limit, require a black carbon measurement method to confirm compliance. As the IMO considers regulating or otherwise directly controlling black carbon emission from international shipping, work is underway to advance the development of a standardised black carbon sampling, conditioning and measurement protocol that will provide comparable and reliable measurements of black carbon from marine diesel engines. Such work is currently ongoing in the IMO. In February 2020 at the 7th session of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response, a Correspondence Group was established to advance the development of a standardised black carbon sampling, conditioning and measurement protocol and to investigate the linkages between the measurement systems and policy options (IMO 2020). At their 8th session in March 2021, the Sub-Committee suggested to the MEPC that the terms of reference for how to develop the standardised sampling, conditioning and measurement protocols should be made at the 79th session of MEPC.
Component 5.1b. International regulations reducing black carbon emissions from shipping
Over the years the MEPC’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response has been investigating appropriate control measures to reduce the impact of black carbon emissions from international shipping on the Arctic and has developed documentation highlighting technical solutions to reduce black carbon emissions (IMO 2015). To enhance deployment rates of available solutions, there is a need for policy instruments that set emission limits, restrict certain types of fuels, provide economic incentives for cleaner technologies or in other ways regulate shipping emissions on the international level.
MEPC 75 has approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I* to introduce a prohibition on the use and carriage for use of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters on and after 1 July 2024, with exemptions and waivers for some ships until 1 July 2029. The exemptions and waivers result in only an expected 5% reduction in BC emissions from Arctic shipping, when a full prohibition would cut emissions with 30%. Waivers can for example be issued by ships under the flag of a state operating in Arctic waters. According to IMO’s definition of Arctic waters, countries able to issue waivers are therefore Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark and Norway. In addition, the 8th session of the MEPC Sub-Committee on pollution prevention recommended that the MEPC should start developing guidelines on which black carbon emission control measures that should be used to reduce the impact on the Arctic.
International regulations on black carbon emissions would have a long-term effect on the development of shipping and ship propulsion technologies. They would provide a minimum standard for technological development and would gradually lead to phasing out of more polluting ships. Here, endorsement of control measure guidelines and of suggestions to prohibit heavy fuel oil use can be important to reduce the impact of black carbon on the Arctic. There is, however, opposition to black carbon emission reduction decisions, and some parties are waiting to see how the global sulphur cap and the forthcoming heavy fuel oil prohibition in the Arctic affect black carbon emissions.
*MARPOL – International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. MARPOL Annex I regulates prevention of pollution by oil.