Upcoming IMO negotiations: Global campaign cites recent investigations urging countries to leave fossil gas behind
Negotiations, kicking off June 26 in London, could either set the course for a comprehensive global climate plan or derail the Paris Agreement into climate chaos.
During these upcoming UN meetings, governments carry the responsibility of curbing the expansion of dirty Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in the shipping industry. It is imperative that national delegations ensure that short-term climate drivers like methane, which has 80 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20 year period, are included in robust climate targets at the IMO.
At the IMO greenhouse gas (GHG) workgroup negotiation in March 2023, short-sighted shipping companies and war-profiteering fossil-fuel executives pushed governments to focus solely on CO2 emissions while disregarding potent climate drivers like methane.
Recent investigations have revealed concerning links between the invasion of Ukraine and soaring profits for energy giants like TotalEnergies, as well as major shipping companies like CMA CGM. These corporations are actively promoting and greenwashing LNG as a “clean” shipping fuel across multiple industries, including maritime shipping.
Exploiting Europe’s reliance on Russian so-called “natural” gas, energy giants have taken advantage of the shock invasion of Ukraine. By leveraging the EU’s seemingly urgent need for non-Russian gas, these corporations weakened regulations and secured long-term contracts for LNG infrastructure across several sectors. They have shifted their public messaging from “energy transition” to “energy security”, employing a new tactic to delay climate policy and shipping regulations in line with the 1.5 °C pathway set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
One example of this is France’s CMA CGM, a maritime shipping giant, which achieved a record net income of USD $25 billion in 2022. CMA CGM has championed LNG as its “green” flagship, signing a 10-year agreement with TotalEnergies to supply LNG fuel for future container ships destined for the Port of Marseille-Fos in France.
However, the development of new LNG terminals and infrastructure necessitates specialized LNG tankers for transportation. Orders for LNG tankers surged by 2.5 times in 2022, totalling USD $50 billion, compared to the previous year. LNG tankers are the most expensive types of vessels, after cruise ships. Retrofitting these tankers for zero-emissions at a later stage would require millions due to their highly specialized nature.
The reality is: most LNG shipping infrastructure will not be operational in time to meet short-term energy shortages caused by the war in Ukraine. Consequently, countries are just locking in fossil fuels for decades to come, risking stranded infrastructure assets. The shipping industry could suffer a potential loss estimated between USD $141-232 billion, or 15-25% of their value, as a result of investing in LNG ships. Additional research continues to surface, providing country-specific data that reinforces these prevailing losses.
It is crucial to acknowledge that using LNG as a marine shipping fuel will have an insignificant impact on short-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. Instead, investing in readily available operational and energy efficiency solutions can help international shipping meet ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets and align with the Paris Agreement.
The fate of our planet hangs in the balance as climate heating wreaks havoc worldwide. The time is now for IMO and its Member States to act decisively and take immediate action to limit global heating to 1.5 °C or lower.
To achieve this critical goal, the shipping sector’s climate impact must be halved by 2030. This will require transformative and sustained change across the industry, but we possess the tools to make it happen now.
IMO Member States can lead the way by setting an ambitious and comprehensive target for 2030. By doing so, they can steer clear of adopting false climate solutions like LNG and prevent the shipping industry from being burdened with stranded fossil-based assets in the next decade. Together, let us seize this moment to safeguard our planet and forge a sustainable pathway for generations to come.
“With the crucial IMO climate discussions approaching on 26 June – 7 July, the global shipping community must support ambitious emissions reductions by 2030 and 2040 in order for the world’s shipping GHG strategy to achieve decarbonisation before 2040.”ELISSAMA MENEZES, GLOBAL CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, SAY NO TO LNG
“Right now, the Arctic is warming more than four times faster than anywhere else on Earth, with the region’s first days without Arctic summer sea ice expected to occur in the coming decade – change that will reverberate worldwide. The shipping sector must act to curb its impact on the Arctic – ships operating in and near to the Arctic should immediately switch from heavy fuel oils to distillate fuels, or to cleaner non-fossil fuels to cut black carbon emissions, which have a disproportionate climate impact on the Arctic, as well as emissions of CO2. Arctic governments, along with the fuel and shipping sector, must avoid investing in LNG infrastructure that will make it more difficult for the Arctic shipping sector to transition to low and zero emission forms of propulsion such as wind power, and cleaner non-fossil fuels in the future.”DR. SIAN PRIOR, LEAD ADVISOR, CLEAN ARCTIC ALLIANCE
“LNG marine fuel is closely tied to highly polluting fracking. Its use results in emissions of climate super-pollutant methane from well-to-wake. Ships using LNG will worsen the sector’s already staggering impact on the climate, the water, and the air that communities and wildlife depend on. We urge an immediate end to all investments and use of LNG. Shipping can be a powerful force for good by choosing to put their enormous resources into fossil-free, zero-emission solutions.”ANNA BARFORD, CANADIAN CLIMATE CAMPAIGNER, STAND.EARTH
“Global shipping faces a critical moment in addressing the climate crisis. We must choose between false solutions like LNG or a true zero-emissions way forward to align with a 1.5-degree pathway. Canada needs to apply the same approach domestically as it does internationally. While Canada has committed to ambitious GHG reduction targets at the IMO, it continues to buy into LNG fracking and bunkering megaprojects, which lock in methane emissions, create stranded assets, and divert investment from zero-emission solutions. It’s time to align Canada’s actions with its international ambitions and shift away from supporting LNG. A two-faced approach to the climate crisis only generates hot air without real action.”ANDREW DUMBRILLE, CANADIAN SHIPPING CAMPAIGNER, SAY NO TO LNG
“LNG is an inadequate bridge technology. The pillars supporting this bridge are already precarious, and the final pillar is completely absent. LNG’s methane emissions contribute to short term acceleration of climate warming. Even if derived from renewable sources, the methane leakage along the supply chain and in combustion prevent this technology’s chance of achieving a zero-emission state. Investments and regulation should prioritize the ramp-up of Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological Origin.”SÖNKE DIESENER, SENIOR TRANSPORT POLICY OFFICER , NABU
“No more gaslighting, LNG is not a viable climate solution. The fossil fuel worsens the climate crisis by emitting methane into the atmosphere. The science however is clear: we need deep cuts in methane now to avoid crossing dangerous tipping points. It’s high time for shipping to invest in real ‘zero emissions’ solutions that deliver on 1.5°C and support a just and equitable transition.”ISABELA KEUSCHNIGG, LEGAL OFFICER, OPPORTUNITY GREEN
“Switching from oil to gas is like going on a diet and switching cheese for sugar. Nearly half of the ships that run on LNG are worse than the traditional vessels they replace because of the amount of methane they leak in the air. Further investments in LNG are a bet against our future. It’s time to stop betting on the wrong horse.”CONSTANCE DIJKSTRA, SHIPPING CAMPAIGNER - LNG & BIOFUELS, TRANSPORT & ENVIRONMENT
“The upcoming IMO negotiation is a key moment for climate action in shipping. For the industry to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, member states of IMO, especially major shipping nations like South Korea, need to agree on more ambitious short- to mid-term emissions reduction targets. Currently, South Korea considers LNG-fueled ships as “eco-friendly,” and aims to expand its global share of the LNG bunkering market. We urge the South Korean government to shift its expertise and resources to zero-emission fuels, and help drive global shipping decarbonization.”JOHN YUM, SHIPPING LEAD, SOLUTIONS FOR OUR CLIMATE
“Liquefied natural gas and its toxic pollution have no place in a zero-emission future, including as a maritime fuel.
And the World Bank agrees – reporting that investing in LNG infrastructure is bad business that will risk unnecessary capital expenditures, stranded assets, and technology lock-in. Now, we need commitments from every level of government to end our fossil fuel era and accelerate clean energy development – starting with our ports. We applaud the Port of Long Beach’s public commitment that it has no intention of building a facility for LNG, but we’re calling on all U.S. ports to end fossil fuel bunkering before 2040. In Congress, new legislation will impose a pollution fee on large marine vessels offloading cargo at U.S. ports and eliminate shipping’s GHG emissions by 2040. Globally, we’re urging the International Maritime Organization to pass climate targets with teeth and correct course on the sector’s deadly pollution and climate-disrupting greenhouse gas emissions.”ALLYSON BROWNE, CLIMATE CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR FOR PORTS, PACIFIC ENVIRONMENT