Over 170 countries in London reached agreement to reduce shipping Carbon dioxide emissions by "at least" 50% on 2008 levels by 2050 with a strong emphasis on scaling up action to 100% by mid-century.
Addressing the plenary, IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim stressed that, though the agreement may not be flawless, it sent a clear signal to the shipping industry.
Meeting the GHG target means that in the 2030s most newly built ocean-going vessels will run on zero carbon renewable fuels.
"They they can feel a lot safer then they were yesterday because of the deal that was done". She noted it will "accelerate the inevitable decarbonization of global shipping, which we all need to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement".
"It is likely this target will tighten further, but even with the lowest level of ambition, the shipping industry will require rapid technological changes to produce zero-emission ships, moving from fossil fuels, to a combination of electricity (batteries), renewable fuels derived from hydrogen, and potentially bioenergy".
He added "The agreed IMO objective of cutting the sector's total GHG emissions by at least 50% before 2050, as part of a continuing pathway for further reduction, is very ambitious indeed, especially when account is taken of current projections for trade growth as the world's population and levels of prosperity continue to increase". Now we can be optimistic that that won't happen. The IMO must move swiftly to introduce measures that will cut emissions deeply and quickly in the short-term.
Experts say that the compromise is not in keeping with the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celcius.
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"Like Apollo 11 returning to Earth we knew we needed to land and we did". There was limited opposition to the deal with Saudi Arabia and the United States expressing reservations. So this decision puts shipping on a promising track.
"This achievement, while not ideal, sends a positive message to the world that shipping is united in reducing GHG emissions", said Mr Jackson.
Research conducted by Tyndall Manchester has evaluated the upstream and operational local pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional fuels alongside a wider range of alternative fuels up to 2050.
A shipping industry summit is looking into how it can reduce its share of global greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
Global director of corporates and supply chain at Carbon Disclosure Project, Dexter Galvin, said while the progress was "good to see" the pledged 50% reduction did not go far enough. "It must be done".
MPEC also adopted several measures that will support implementation of the strategy, including: amendments to a regulation on Energy Efficiency Design Index for passenger and cargo ships relating to the third, and a possible fourth phase of implementing EDDI requirements; and an amendment making data collection on fuel oil consumption of ships mandatory in 2019.
The shipping industry will expect to participate constructively in these important discussions. Full decarbonisation by mid century remains the minimum course for 1.5C, which if exceeded creates existential threats for some countries and economic threats for all.