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NGOs Call for Urgent Cut to Shipping’s Black Carbon Impacts on Arctic

Tuesday, 14 May 2019 | 00:00

The Clean Arctic Alliance called on International Maritime Organization Member States to reduce the impact of black carbon emissions from international shipping on the Arctic environment, as the UN body gathers in London for a meeting of its Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC74), during which a number of issues, including black carbon emissions and heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Arctic will feature on the agenda .

Emissions of black carbon particles by ships burning heavy fuel oil has a dramatic climate warming effect – black carbon is a potent short-lived climate forcer that remains in the atmosphere for only a few days to weeks. But when black carbon is emitted from ships burning heavy fuel in or near Arctic waters, particles fall on ice or snow, reducing its albedo (reflectivity) and causing it to absorb more heat, thus accelerating the warming of the Arctic region. As well as the second leading cause of global warming, black carbon emissions are also harmful to human health.

“By cutting ship-sourced emissions of black carbon, IMO member states could take a quick and effective path to countering the current climate crisis, and minimise further impacts on the Arctic”, said Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a group of nonprofit organisations campaigning for a ban on use and carriage of ban HFO. “We’re calling on IMO member states to champion a move away from using heavy fuel oils – shipping’s number one source of black carbon – in Arctic waters. WWith cleaner shipping fuels already available and innovation and ambition driving the global shipping industry towards lower emissions, IMO member states must move rapidly towards zero emission solutions” .

“All eight Arctic countries made a commitment to demonstrate leadership on black carbon in 2015 – and it now seems that all except Canada are backing a move away from heavy fuel oil in the Arctic . As recent comments from Russia’s President Putin and Finland’s President Niinistö demonstrate, the political will for a HFO Free Arctic exists – now it is the time for IMO Member States to turn this will into action, by moving urgently to reduce black carbon emissions and by backing the ban on the use and carriage of HFO in the Arctic, currently under development.”

At MEPC 72 in April 2018, a strongly-worded proposal to ban HFO as shipping fuel from Arctic waters was co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US. The ban is currently being developed within the IMO [3].

During a public discussion at the April 2019 International Arctic Forum in Saint Petersburg, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö outlined “two promising ways to tackle black carbon emissions in the Arctic. One is modernising outdated heating and power plants. Another is investing in clean and sustainable shipping”.

“The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the world, and Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world… both of these are really disturbing trends”, responded Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised, during the event. “What is vitally important in my opinion, and here I fully agree with Sauli, is the conversion of ships to more environmentally friendly types of fuel. First of all, I mean gas fuel, especially for ships operating in northern and Arctic seas…. Shipbuilding and shipping companies should be encouraged towards using such types of transport and fuel”.

“President Putin’s call for shipowners and builders to lead an Arctic-wide move away from oil-based fuel use is not only an encouragement for Russian shipping to switch to cleaner fuels, it’s an inspiration for the global shipping industry to clean up its act”, said Alexey Knizhnikov, Oil & Gas Programme Leader at WWF Russia. “We look forward to Russia moving to support the forthcoming ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters, currently under development by the IMO”.

On May 8th, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on the need for Arctic nations to reaffirm their commitment to reducing black carbon emissions, through collaboration within the International Maritime Organization, after the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Finland was unable to achieve a consensus on issuing a joint declaration for the first time in its 23-year history, due to the United States refusal to support the need for collaborative action by the Arctic Council to address climate change. On May 6th, the Clean Arctic Alliance had published a manifesto, calling on Iceland to Take Arctic Council Leadership on Black Carbon Emissions.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe. Recent reports suggest that Greenland’s ice sheet is “falling apart”, with about half of the nearly 5,000 gigatons of water lost from the ice sheet since 1927 occuring in 8 years between 2010 and 2018.
Source: Clean Arctic Alliance

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