CBDR at MEPC 65: Resolution adopted

IMO MEPC 65 session London, May 2013After previous failures in 2011 and 2012, late night negotiations on CBDR at the IMO were successful. MEPC 65 finalized, and adopted by acclamation, an MEPC Resolution on Promotion of Technical Co-operation and Transfer of Technology relating to the Improvement of Energy Efficiency of Ships (the Resolution). The key issue that divided the Parties was addressed by a reference to "being cognizant of principles enshrined in" the IMO and the UNFCCC conventions. Further discussions of Market Based Measures (MBMs) were held back, again, and suspended to a future session.

The discussions at sixty-fifth session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 65), held in London from 13 - 17 May 2013, demonstrated once again the political sensitivity of, and opposing views on, relating or linking the principle of CBDR and the climate change measures at the IMO (and also at the ICAO; CBDR refers to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities of the UNFCCC).
Following various compromises, and notably the agreement to use the phrase "being cognizant" in relation to principles of both the UNFCCC and the IMO, the Resolution was adopted, after being on agenda since MEPC 62 in 2011. MEPC 65 also continued its work on further developing technical and operational measures relating to energy-efficiency for ships, among many other items related to the environment.
However, once more the discussions on MBMs and related issues was suspended, apart from couple of items, this time to "a future session".

Focus of the session: the Resolution (3rd time lucky)

For the third MEPC session in a row, an important objective stated at the opening address by the IMO's Secretary General, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, and the MEPC Chairman, Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou (Cyprus), was to finalize and adopt an MEPC resolution on Promotion of Technical Co-operation and Transfer of Technology relating to the improvement of energy efficiency of ships (the “Resolution”). Country delegations had worked hard on reaching compromise in the inter-sessional period, and during MEPC 65, not least because the relevant regulation has already entered into force from January 1, 2013.
A draft compromise text submitted by South Africa (in document MEPC 65/4/33) gained support from many countries. However, once more the major issue that country delegates could not find a way forward was whether, and if so how, to reference or relate the UNFCCC principles and provisions to the climate change measures at the IMO. Only during the last night of the session, the following phrase was agreed at the Friends of the Chair group to be proposed for MEPC consideration the following day (after some skilful facilitation by the Chairman):

BEING COGNIZANT of the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Organization, including the principle of non-discrimination, as well as the principle of no more favourable treatment enshrined in MARPOL and other IMO Conventions,
BEING COGNIZANT ALSO of the principles enshrined in the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,

This was accepted, and the Resolution was adopted by the Committee (MEPC) by acclamation!
Among other things, the Resolution, MEPC.229(65), requests IMO, through its various programmes, to provide technical assistance to Member States to enable cooperation in the transfer of energy efficient technologies to developing countries in particular; and further assist in the sourcing of funding for capacity building and support to States, in particular developing States, which have requested technology transfer.

Creative ambiguity rather than change of positions

Adopting the Resolution does not mean that certain Parties have changed their opposing views on the main issue, however.
After the Resolution adoption several developed country delegations made it clear that they interpreted the Resolution in the way that the principles of the IMO governed its work. At the same time several developing country delegations expressed satisfaction from recognition of the CBDR in relation to climate change issues at the IMO. All delegations that spoke expressed satisfaction from the adoption of the Resolution though.
The creative ambiguity, as some described the wording of the key paragraphs referring to the IMO and UNFCCC principles, helped to adopt the Resolution but has also left room for different interpretations, as reflected not only in the initial statements after the adoption. For instance, the difference of interpretations became clear again during the subsequent UNFCCC Climate Change Conference SB 38 in Bonn, June 2013 (specifically when the update on the IMO's work to address emissions from fuels used international shipping was discussed at the SBSTA session). Cuba, on behalf of twenty like minded countries, congratulated the IMO on recognizing the CBDR principle, and reiterated various elements that should guide the ICAO and IMO when addressing climate change. Japan instead asserted that the adoption of the preamble paragraph in the Resolution, which refers to "being cognizant" of CBDR, should not limit the activities under the principles of the IMO, and pointed out that its reiteration of this point was recorded in the MEPC 65 report. For more details on the different perspectives expressed at the SB 38 see TWN Bonn News Update 4, entitled UNFCCC principles must guide work of IMO and ICAO –say developing countries. You may also view and listen to the various interventions on the topic through a webcast of SBSTA 2nd meeting, item 10e.

Air pollution and energy efficiency (Agenda item 4)

The MEPC continued its work on further developing technical and operational measures relating to energy-efficiency measures for ships, following the entry into force, on 1 January 2013, of the new chapter 4 of MARPOL Annex VI, which includes requirements mandating the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), for all ships.
Various technical elements were developed, and agreed. This included: approving draft amendments to extend the application of EEDI to other ships, such as ro-ro cargo ships and LNG carriers, and to exempt others, such as ships not propelled by mechanical means; as well as adopting various amendments to implementation guidelines for EEDI and SEEMP.

Further measures to improve the energy efficiency of ships

The MEPC considered the use of a phased approach to further improve the energy efficiency of ships, with the focus of its initial work being on data collection, as a basis for future technical work (as proposed in document MEPC 65/4/19 submitted by the USA).
The Committee noted that there was considerable support for such an approach, and agreed to establish a sub-agenda item under the MEPC’s agenda item 4, for discussion of further technical and operational measures for enhancing energy efficiency for international shipping, and to establish a working group under this sub-agenda item at MEPC 66.

Reduction of GHG emissions from ships (Agenda item 5)

Under this agenda item the MEPC agreed to suspend discussions on Market-Based Measures and related issues to a future session, except couple of items, notably a new emissions' estimate.
The MEPC approved the terms of reference and agreed to initiate a study for an updated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions’ estimate for international shipping, following discussion in an expert workshop on the methodology and assumptions to be used.
The new study will focus on updating key figures in the current (second) IMO GHG Study (2009), which estimated that international shipping emitted 870 million tonnes, or about 2.7%, of the global man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2007.

Further information on MEPC 64

Official information on the progress achieved at MEPC 65, including on other agenda items, is available at the IMO's MEPC 65 meeting summary.