The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) agreed on 27th October to set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels, in a move that campaigners predict will save millions of lives in the coming decades.
At a meeting of the IMO’s environment protection committee this week shipping officials agreed to cap the sulphur content of marine fuels sold around the world at 0.5% by 2020, finally making good on a 2008 agreement to cap sulphur levels by 2020 or 2025.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have been linked to premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. The current limit on sulphur content for marine fuels is 3,500 times higher than for diesel in European road vehicles, and the shipping sector is by far the biggest emitter of SO2.
The move is expected to slash SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels, and according to one study reduce the number of premature deaths by 200,000 every year.
The move was widely welcomed by both industry and environmental campaigners. Shipping giant Maersk said via Twitter the new regulation will help to create a “level playing field” for all shipping operators.
Bill Hemmings, shipping director at campaign group Transport & Environment, called the move a “landmark decision”.
“This decision reduces the contribution of shipping to the world’s air pollution impact from about 5% down to 1.5% and will save millions of lives in the coming decades,” he said in a statement. “Now the focus should shift towards implementing this decision, which is a big issue since it’s not yet clear who should police ships on the high seas, and how.”
Other items on the agenda for this week’s meeting include proposals for mandatory requirements for ships above 5,000 tonnes in weight to record and report on their fuel consumption, and the establishment of a working group for an “in-depth debate” on how to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.
Source: The Guardian