LONDON The United Nations shipping agency should take the lead in the absence of a climate deal at Copenhagen last year and press ahead with cutting carbon emissions in the seaborne sector, campaigners said on Wednesday.
The shipping sector accounts for nearly 3 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and calls have grown for cuts.
Delegates from 70 member state countries will convene in London next week for a session of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) marine environment protection committee (MEPC).
A climate meeting in Copenhagen in December, the 15th under a U.N. process (COP 15), delivered little in a drive to agree a replacement to the existing Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which excludes shipping and aviation.
"The lack of a specific direction from COP 15 means that shipping has a window of opportunity to actually push ahead and show leadership here," Peter Boyd, director of operations with non-profit climate change group the Carbon War Room, said.
The MEPC will consider whether to approve a proposal submitted by Japan, Norway and the United States for technical and operational measures aimed at reducing CO2 in ships.
These include an energy efficiency index to ensure the design of new vessels are environmentally friendly as well as fuel-efficient best practices for existing and new ships.
Boyd, whose group founders include entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, told Reuters making an energy efficiency index mandatory was vital for saving fuel and cutting CO2.
If the proposal is approved, it would then be tabled for adoption at the next MEPC meeting in October when there needs to be a 16-month period for it to come into force with early 2012 a likely timeframe. At any point if a third of countries object, it cannot come into force.
Some environmentalists have argued that the IMO has been slow to move on cutting CO2 especially in relation to market based instruments. The MEPC said in July it "could be in a position" to report progress on the issue in July 2011.
John Aitken, secretary general of industry group SEAaT whose members include BP's and Royal Dutch Shell's shipping units, said an emissions trading scheme was the best way to cut CO2, but added that it was likely to take time.
An IMO spokeswoman said it was up to member states to move the process forward.
"It is necessary to get things right, rather than moving hastily," she said.
Peter Hinchliffe, marine director with the International Chamber of Shipping said the IMO was committed to a work plan to regulate the sector.
"IMO is the embodiment of the views of its member states and therefore it is incorrect to talk about IMO moving at a particular speed. When the member states have a consensus, the IMO delivers," said Hinchliffe, whose association represents 75 percent of the global seaborne industry.