The shipping sector is finally on board in the fight against climate change



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Australia will have to regulate its considerable shipping industry.
PomInAus/shutterstock.com

Beatriz Garcia, Western Sydney University and Jolene Lin, National University of Singapore

For the first time, the massive global shipping sector has agreed to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in what’s been called a “historic” moment.

Maritime shipping, which carries about 80% of global trade by volume, contributes around A$9 billion directly to Australia’s gross domestic product, and A$11.8 billion indirectly.




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Three ways to improve commercial shipping’s environmental footprint


Sea transport has a relatively green image because ships emit less carbon dioxide per tonne and per kilometre than rail, truck or air transport. Yet, given its scale and rapid growth, it’s a major source of carbon emissions. Maritime transport emits around 1,000 million tonnes of CO₂ a year and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The international law

Despite being a major contributor to climate change, the powerful shipping industry has successfully lobbied to be excluded from obligations to reduce emissions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and, more recently, the 2015 Paris Agreement.

There are also no sector-wide emission reduction targets in maritime shipping under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In other key policy spaces, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), there are no obligations imposed on either states or shipping corporations to reduce maritime emissions.

Countries could potentially set emissions targets domestically, but they rarely set sectoral targets, especially for sectors that are heavily exposed to international trade. In this context, the shipping industry has been particularly footloose in its response to climate change.

It is therefore a cause for celebration that decades of negotiation have now yielded this agreement. The deal requires all IMO countries to reduce shipping emissions by 50% compared with 2008 levels.

Ships will be required to be more energy-efficient and to use cleaner energy such as solar and wind electricity generation. Currently, the shipping industry is overwhelmingly reliant on dirty, carbon-rich fuels such as heavy diesel.

Some stormy seas ahead

The climate deal has been described as “historic”, but not all countries are on board. Some, particularly island nations that are vulnerable to sea level rise, wanted a “far, far more ambitious” target. Others, including the United States, Brazil, Panama and Saudi Arabia, are strongly against it. Reconciling these differences will be a difficult task for the IMO.

It has always been technically difficult to accurately calculate the precise amount of fuel used during shipping operations. It’s even harder to allocate maritime emissions to specific countries.

Contributing to the potential confusion is the use of “flags of convenience”. This is where a ship’s owners register the vessel in a country other than their own, and fly the flag of the country where registered.

This is usually done to disguise the relationship between the vessel and its actual owner, due to the attractive, lower regulatory burdens that some open registries offer. Shipping corporations could also use flags of convenience to avoid mandatory emission reduction targets.

The way forward

As a result of the climate deal, states will eventually need to introduce domestic laws setting emission reduction targets for their shipping industry.

These targets could also be applied to ships that call at their ports. The good news is that there is potential synergy between such regulation and existing laws, such as the European Union regulation that requires ship owners and operators to monitor, report and verify CO₂ emissions from certain vessels that dock at European ports.




Read more:
Five ways the shipping industry can reduce its carbon emissions


The new climate deal has the potential to change the way shipping companies operate. It presents an opportunity for the shipping industry to become part of the solution rather than the problem when it comes to climate change.

The ConversationIt’s also a strong signal to other international industries, such as the aviation sector, that have largely escaped emissions reduction targets. If we can reduce emissions in such a large and complex sector as marine transport, it bodes well for the capacity of international frameworks to tackle other difficult problems.

Beatriz Garcia, Lecturer, Western Sydney University and Jolene Lin, Director, Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, National University of Singapore

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The new international whaling resolution will do little to stop Japan killing whales


Indi Hodgson-Johnston, University of Tasmania

Australia and New Zealand were claiming a conservation success this week, when their resolution against lethal “scientific” whaling was adopted at the International Whaling Commission’s biennial meeting in Slovenia. But in reality the non-binding decision will do little to stop Japan’s whaling program.

This resolution aims to tighten the loophole that allows nations to catch whales under the guise of scientific whaling. It provides for greater oversight of the currently self-assessed special permits for lethal scientific whale research.

After the disappointment of failing to establish a South Atlantic whale sanctuary, the anti-whaling bloc of nations at the IWC meeting have hailed the latest resolution, with Australia’s environment minister Josh Frydenberg describing the decision as “a big win”.

Where next for Japanese whaling?

Japan conducts its whaling under a self-issued permit, under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. This article allows a country to grant its nationals special licence “to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the Contracting Government thinks fit”.

In 2014 the International Court of Justice ruled Japan’s JARPA II whaling program illegal on the basis that it was “not for the purposes of scientific research” and therefore in breach of Article VIII. But crucially it did not ban all future scientific whaling activities by Japan.

After the decision, Japan created a new research programme called NEWREP-A (New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean), which purported to have different scientific methods to its predecessor.

As Japan no longer recognises the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice regarding “living resources of the sea”, arguments on adherence to the broader principle laid down in the decision would possibly be in vain.

A new tack

This brings us back to the new resolution, which was brought to the IWC by Australia, New Zealand and other anti-whaling nations in a bid to make it harder for nations such as Japan to issue themselves with special permits for scientific whaling.

The underlying principle is Australia’s repeated assertion that “lethal scientific research is simply not necessary”.

Japan’s new NEWREP-A program included the killing of 333 minke whales in the 2015-16 season, and the IWC’s Scientific Committee was powerless to prevent Japan from proceeding, given that the conditions of special permits are currently self-assessed and can proceed without scientific endorsement from the committee.

The new resolution establishes a Working Group under the Convention, which will consider the Scientific Committee’s recommendations in relation to all special permits. It also gives a greater role to the Commission in the process of issuing special permits.

The aim is to apply much greater scrutiny to the granting of special permits, rather than allowing nations simply to award them to themselves. Plans for special permits are requested to be submitted to the new working group at least six months in advance of the Scientific Committee’s meeting, alongside the data used to back up a country’s claims to be running a scientific whaling program. These data will be evaluated both during the program’s development, and during ongoing and final reviews.

These inquiries into the special permit will then be presented to the IWC itself, which will form its own official view on the proposed whaling program and publish its findings.

Overall, the resolution gives the Commission a much greater role in deciding whether a given nation should be allowed to kill whales. But resolutions are not legally binding, and there is no function to penalise those who do not follow them.

Non-binding resolutions

In response to the new resolution, Japan’s Commissioner to the IWC said that Japan “will abide by the Convention itself”. This implies that Japan will continue to apply its own interpretation of the Convention, and will not follow the extra steps outlined in the new resolution.

So despite the new emphasis on applying scientific scrutiny to whaling permits, at a higher level than before within the IWC’s structure, this actually doesn’t mean much in practical terms for Japan. The reality is that Japan will continue to act independently of IWC advice due to its view on what Article VIII means.

As a result, Japan is unlikely to stop killing whales any time soon, despite the efforts of Australia, New Zealand and other anti-whaling nations to shut the program down.

The Conversation

Indi Hodgson-Johnston, Antarctic Law and Policy Researcher, PhD Candidate, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Scientists: Current international warming target is “disastrous”


Grist

Ever since the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, world leaders have agreed on 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) as the maximum acceptable global warming above pre-industrial levels to avert the worst impacts of climate change (today we’re at about 0.8 degrees C). But a new study, led by climatologist James Hansen of Columbia University, argues that pollution plans aimed at that target would still result in “disastrous consequences,” from rampant sea-level rise to widespread extinction.

A major goal of climate scientists since Copenhagen has been to convert the 2 degree limit into something useful for policymakers, namely, a specific total amount of carbon we can “afford” to dump into the atmosphere, mostly from burning fossil fuels in power plants (this is known as a carbon budget). This fall, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pegged the number at 1 trillion metric tons of carbon, or about…

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The Smithsonian Institute


The Smithsonian Institute is an important research center located in the United States. It consists of 19 museums, 9 research centres and the national zoo of the United States. It is extremely important in the international cause of conservation.

For more visit the website at:

http://www.si.edu/

Plants Under Threat Around the World


When we think of species threatened with extinction, we tend to think of animal, bird and fish species – not necessarily plant species. Never before has so many of the planet’s plant species been threatened with extinction in the wild. One web site concerned with bringing awareness of the plight of the planet’s plant species is Plantlife. Visit the site below to find out more about the threat to our planet’s plantlife.

http://www.plantlife.org.uk/

The site deals primarily with the situation in Great Britain, but there is also an international side to the site. Visit the URL below to visit that part of the site.

http://www.plantlife.org.uk/international