Shipping and Climate Change: International Law and Policy Considerations

Special Report

September 6, 2018

This report investigates the international law and policy challenges to the determination of the international shipping industry’s contribution to climate change mitigation efforts through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations and the competent international organization with respect to shipping in international law. The report sets out the international legal framework that serves as the context for the IMO initial strategy, the challenge of regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping, and the process and issues in determining the industry’s “fair share” of mitigation efforts and potential legal pathways. The report concludes with general, policy and legal considerations that have a bearing on the current and possible future directions of the nascent IMO strategy.

General considerations include the observation that the complexity and uncertainty underscoring the development of the IMO strategy call for a long-term planning instrument that is integrated and systemic in scope, flexible in approach and adaptive in application. As other regimes and sectors progress in developing and delivering on mitigation efforts, care should be exercised in considering lessons and tools from other sectors for application to shipping, given its uniqueness and that other sector experiences emanate from different contexts and considerations. Given continuing significant differences on GHG issues in the IMO, it is vital for the long-term IMO strategy to be advanced and maintained on the basis of the culture of consensus that has helped shape the IMO as a successful regulatory body.