Last week saw the first test of the political will enshrined in the Paris Agreement, not just because of the signing of the treaty at the UN headquarters in New York, but also because the same signatory countries convened in London to discuss greenhouse gas reduction measures, inter alia, for the shipping industry. The UN’s body responsible for regulating shipping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), met for the 69th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). With a heavy agenda on the table, the committee also included a discussion on the adoption of a work plan to define shipping’s “fair share” contribution towards reducing global GHG emissions.

For more detailed background information, please see Dr Tristan Smith’s article ‘Growing coalition pushes for cap on CO2 emissions from ships’ published on China Dialogue.

Even though no work plan was adopted, many countries as well as industry representatives voiced strong support which resulted in the establishment of a working group at the next MEPC session. In an article for Climate Home, Dr Tristan Smith commented: “Given the circumstances, that was a very positive outcome. To see an alignment between industry, Europe and vulnerable states was a great breakthrough.” UCL researchers who attended the meeting are now in the process of analysing the debate in more detail.
In addition to commenting and post-meeting analyses, UCL researchers have been actively sharing their research with MEPC delegations. At a side event hosted by the Belgian delegation, Dr Tristan Smith presented the work undertaken for the Royal Belgian Shipowners Association. Furthermore, Dr Nishatabbas Rehmatulla & Dr John Calleya submitted an information paper (MEPC 69/INF.8) to the committee, which focuses on the implementation of technical energy efficiency measures based on a cross-sectional survey of 275 ship owners and operators covering around 5,000 ships. It shows that the uptake of energy efficiency technologies has generally been low and the technologies that have had higher uptake have small energy efficiency gains at the ship level.

Using the increased media interest around MEPC 69, UCL Energy Institute also launched which is an interactive map of all the ships and their emissions for the year 2012. This launch was hugely successful, with over 100,000 views generated in as little as three days, and allowed UCL to reach an audience not generally familiar with the shipping industry and its emissions.

In perfect timing, the Shipping Podcast by Lena Göthberg released its latest episode featuring Dr Tristan Smith talking about the various strands of research taking place at the Institute from the impacts of slow steaming in a slow moving market to using AIS data to observe every ship on the Earth.