MEPC 77 and its impact on decarbonisation of shipping

News / / London

We know that the Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed at COP 26, emphasising the urgent need for a rapid and sustained decline of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (see more details in our recent article COP26 and its impact on Shipping). The Marine Environment Protection Committee’s 77th meeting (MEPC 77), held two weeks after, was considered by many as a key test of IMO’s ability to act upon the Paris Agreement targets by delivering a number of GHG reduction measures.

What does this mean for the shipping industry?

The shipping industry waited with bated breath for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to consider a revision of its strategy on GHG emissions at MEPC 77. The meeting was held in November 2021.

What was the agenda for the meeting?

The agenda included a number of important and substantive items, with discussions covering:

  • Reduction of GHG emissions from shipping
  • Air pollution prevention and energy efficiency
  • Ballast water management and anti-fouling systems
  • Marine plastic litter from ships
  • Exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS)
  • Black carbon in the Arctic

Did the 174 Member States manage to cover all these aspects as intended?

The Member States struggled to allocate adequate time and resources to each topic. With reference to decarbonisation, several significant proposals have been referred to session number 11 and 12 of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG), scheduled for Spring 2022, and to MEPC 78, currently tentatively scheduled for June 2022.

What were the key decisions made relevant to the decarbonisation of shipping?

1. Revision of Initial IMO GHG Strategy

A draft resolution for Zero Emission Shipping by 2050 was put forward at MEPC 77. The Committee was unable to reach a consensus on the wording of the resolution, but agreed to initiate the revision of the IMO Initial GHG Strategy including its targets, impact assessments and a review of fuel availabilities.

Concrete proposals for the reduction of GHG emissions are to be submitted in advance of MEPC 78, with the finalization and adoption of the revised strategy set to take place at MEPC 80 (Spring 2023).

2. Status of International Maritime Research Fund (IMRF)/ International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB)

The proposal for the creation of a US$5billion Research & Development (R&D) fund – the IMO Maritime Research Fund (IMRF), to be managed by the International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB) – to accelerate R&D for zero emission technologies is now promoted by major Member States and by leading industry associations.

However, a number of countries expressed concerns at MEPC 77 over the governance and administration of the prospective IMRF and IMRB and its further consideration has been referred to ISWG-GHG in Spring 2022.

3. A ‘basket of measures’ for mid-term reductions of GHG emissions

In June 2021, MEPC 76 approved a ‘Work Plan’ to progress the development of mid & long-term GHG reduction measures and its programme of follow-up actions.

Phase I of the Work Plan is set to conclude next Spring during ISWG-GHG 11 and ISWG-GHG 12, and concerns the collation and initial consideration of mid-term GHG reduction measures. These are often referred as a ‘basket of measures’ and include a combination of market-based, technical and operational measures.

MEPC 77 agreed to establish the following with reference to Phase I:

  • An ad-hoc expert workshop on impact assessments to be held in March 2022, to consider concrete proposals for improving the impact assessment procedure and provide recommendations as part of the lessons-learned exercise.
  • A correspondence group on carbon intensity reduction, to finalise and update guidelines relating in particular to the short-term measures. These will include the technical Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and the operational Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), both due to come into force on 1 January 2023.

4. Black Carbon in the Arctic Resolution

MEPC 77 adopted a resolution aimed at protecting the Arctic from black carbon emissions from shipping, and urging Member States and ship operators to use distillate or other cleaner alternative fuels or methods of propulsion voluntarily when operating in or near the Arctic.

Final thoughts

Even though MEPC 77 did not go as far as adopting the proposed Resolution on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050 nor as approving the establishment of the IMRF/IMRB, a number of GHG emissions reduction measures were approved by the Committee, including an agreement to revise the IMO GHG Initial Strategy and to consider further, in Spring 2022, the IMRF/IMRB proposals and the Phase I mid-term measures.


This Q&A does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any queries, or you would like our assistance in considering the issues raised in this Q&A, then please do not hesitate to contact the author of this article or your usual contact at Ince.
Alberta Longanesi Cattani

Alberta Longanesi Cattani Senior Associate

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