IMO greenhouse gas emission strategy needs teeth, says int’l Inuit org

The opening of the 80th Session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at IMO HQ on July 2. (International Maritime Organization)

The International Maritime Organization adoption of a revised, greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction strategy is a step in the right direction, but lacks the teeth needed to protect Arctic communities, says the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC).

“Unfortunately, the IMO negotiations in London last week did not result in setting a 1.5 degree aligned GHG reduction pathway for the global shipping sector,” ICC Vice Chair Lisa Koperqualuk said in a statement this week.

“Inuit communities are facing climate warming impacts at a rate three to four times higher than that experienced in other regions of the world,” ICC Vice Chair Lisa Koperqualuk said. (Courtesy ICC-Canada).

“While a new reduction target of net zero ‘around 2050’ was agreed, along with 2030 and 2040 ‘checkpoints’, the elements and measures to get there remain vague and non binding.”

The IMO is the UN agency that develops international shipping standards and works with countries to implement them.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) met July 3-7 and adopted the 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships. The MEPC are responsible for tackling environmental issues the IMO has authority over. 

“Monumental development”

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim described the revised strategy as ” a monumental development”  in reducing carbon emissions in the maritime industry.

“The adoption of the 2023 IMO Greenhouse Gas Strategy is a monumental development for IMO and opens a new chapter towards maritime decarbonization,” he said.

“At the same time, it is not the end goal, it is in many ways a starting point for the work that needs to intensify even more over the years and decades ahead of us. However, with the Revised Strategy that you have now agreed on, we have a clear direction, a common vision, and ambitious targets to guide us to deliver what the world expects from us.”

Main goals of revised strategy
A file photo of a ship outside Cambridge Bay Nunavut. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)
  1. Improve energy efficiency for new ships, including design requirements
  2. Decrease international shipping’s carbon footprint, by reducing CO2 emissions at least 40% by 2030, compared to 2008
  3. Push for at least five per cent, but aiming for 10 per cent of the energy used in international shipping to come from clean, low-emission technologies, fuels, and energy sources
  4. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping to net-zero by around 2050

Source: International Maritime Organization

Lim said work now has to be done to make sure all countries have what they need to tackling emissions in their respective shipping sectors. 

“Above all, it is particularly meaningful, to have unanimous support from all Member States. In this regard, I believe that we have to pay more attention to support developing countries, in particular SIDS and LDCs, so that no one is left behind,” he said.

“Recognizing the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples is necessary to create a more just, equitable future for all,” ICC’s International Chair Sara Olsvig said.(Courtesy ICC)

Inuit voices need to be heard

ICC reiterated its call from last week that Indigenous and Inuit perspectives need to be incorporated into the IMO strategy as well as to address the shipping sector’s contribution to black carbon pollutants. 

“In addition to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Revised IMO GHG Reduction Strategy and its implementation must ensure the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives, approaches, decisions, and knowledge,” ICC’s International Chair Sara Olsvig said.

Koperqualuk, from Nunavik in northern Quebec, said with the Arctic climate warming four times faster than the rest of the world, it’s imperative that voices from those communities be heard. 

“Inuit communities are making necessary adaptations and adjustments, while dealing with the inequities caused by historical and contemporary policies made without our participation,” she said.

“The [2023 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report] recognizes that preventing or reducing severe risks in highly vulnerable regions like the Arctic requires a collective effort. It acknowledges the importance of involving Indigenous Peoples, such as Inuit, in climate change governance and promoting collaboration between the diverse knowledge systems.”

ICC represents the approximately 180,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia. It received provisional consultative status at the International Maritime Organization in 2021.

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Qanittaq Clean Arctic Shipping Initiative gets $91.6 million from Ottawa, Eye on the Arctic

inland: Finland investigates oil leak risks from Baltic Sea shipwrecks, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland to restrict heavy fuel oil use in territorial waters, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: LNG-reloading operations end in Norway’s Arctic waters, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Shipping figures rising on Russia’s Northern Sea Route, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Carnival Corporation ships switch to cleaner fuel on Arctic cruises, Radio Canada International

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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