Island Nations Tackle Shipping Emissions

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The island nations have it tough. Most people think of them as vacation destinations and nothing more. But countries like the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Maldives and many more are on the front lines of the battle against climate change. With sea levels on the rise, the very land they sit on could cease to be. And, as small nations with little in the way of industry, they didn’t do very much to cause the problem.

These island nations have formed a voting bloc for U.N. climate change negotiations to lobby for the issues and points of view of greatest concern to these small-but-mighty nations. The group, called the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), shares common challenges including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. They also collectively understand that climate change is a huge threat.

Which is why they are lobbying hard at this week’s Paris talks for strong, immediate action.

These islands are united by what surrounds them — ocean water — which is one of the reasons they’ve come together to call out the international shipping industry. The shipping industry was the recipient of the “fossil of the day” award (if you can call it that) on Wednesday due to the volume of international shipping and the lack of regulations for this industry.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have the same emissions as Japan and Germany combined! What’s more, emissions are set to increase — IMO estimates that they’ll go up 50 to 250 percent by 2050. Right now, they’re responsible for 2.2 percent of total global emissions.

Yet this international industry has continued to fly under the radar (no pun intended) when it comes to emissions regulations. That’s why the Marshall Islands, with SIDS at its back, is calling for regulations for the global transportation provider:

“Parties [shall][should][other] pursue limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively, with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies.”

While this is an entirely modest request, and the EU claims emissions can be reduced with existing technology, one fears that this sector will continue to go unregulated due to its international nature.

Supply chain emissions are a key issue for every global conglomerate, and shipping disruptions due to climate change will cost corporations billions. One would think regulation would be a no-brainer, but we’ve left it to the good people of the Marshall Islands to sound the alarm. Let’s not let them down.

Image credit: Flickr/Andrew

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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