International Maritime Organization Agrees to Stringent Sulfur Emissions Limits
By Robert Wall and Costas Paris Oct.
27, 2016 11:12 a.m. ET
Global shipping is cleaning up its act. In a landmark decision, the more than 170 member states of the International Maritime Organization, the global shipping regulator, on Thursday agreed in London to sharp limits on sulfur emissions.
The agreement would impose limits on sulfur use in fuel from 2020 in a setback for those seeking more gradual introduction of tougher pollution standards. The IMO said the sulfur content in fuel will be limited to 0.5%, far below the 2.5% average today.
Critics have warned the deal will significantly raise fuel costs at a time the shipping industry can least afford it. A near unprecedented slump in global freight rates has driven many businesses into bankruptcy and financially weakened even the most resilient operators.
Some estimates ahead of the deal said an accord could cost about £40 billion. Many of the IMO’s 171 member countries, 87 of which handle 96% of the world’s cargo, have already moved to adopt lower sulfur emissions, including some of the world’s biggest ship-owning countries such as Greece, China, Germany and the U.S.
Some countries want further action to cut pollution from ships. The European Union is pushing members to also adopt measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Shipping has been excluded from last year’s global carbon deal struck in Paris aimed at curbing the emissions scientists say contribute to the warming of the earth. Shipping was excluded because of the cross-border nature of the industry. European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc this week urged IMO members to get on track to work toward a deal to cover CO2 emissions from shipping in 2018.
Such an agreement would be similar to a deal agreed this year by the IMO’s aviation counterpart to cap CO2 emissions from international flights.
Those also had been excluded from the Paris deal.
The CO2 issue is still being discussed by IMO members.