In opening remarks delivered for the UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference in Beijing, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had tough words for the shipping industry and its progress on decarbonization.
"Let's be honest. While member states have made some initial steps through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization to address emissions from shipping and aviation, the current commitments are not aligned with the 1.5 degree [C] goal of the Paris agreement," he said. "In fact, they are more consistent with warming above three degrees."
Guterres called on IMO and its member states to adopt a new set of "ambitious and credible targets that are truly consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement." He made clear that the "urgent priority" should be progress towards full decarbonization by 2050 - not a 50 percent reduction, as currently envisioned in IMO's climate "ambitions."
"Zero emissions ships must be the default choice, and commercially available for all by 2030 in order to achieve zero emissions in the shipping sector by 2050," he said.
Guterres also noted that there is room for improvement in working conditions in shipping, pointing to the "unsafe and inhumane" treatment of seafarers during the pandemic. Repeated waves of lockdowns, travel restrictions and disembarkation bans have made crew change - and even basic shore leave - a continuous challenge for the industry.
His comments come in advance of the COP26 meeting in Scotland, where world leaders will be meeting beginning on October 31 to discuss progress on the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition, the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee - the agency's forum for emissions negotiations - will be meeting for its 77th session on November 8-12.