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Plans for a shipping tax hits stormy waters

Tense negotiations begin at IMO working group to determine shipping’s decarbonisation goals with some developing countries coming out strongly against a carbon levy as a market-based measure. PHOTO/IMO/Flickr

By SHIPPING CORRESPONDENT

newshub@eyewitness.africa

Hopes have been rising recently that a global tax on shipping emissions will transform climate finance by bringing billions of dollars to developing countries for climate action.

After years as a low-profile proposal made by tiny Pacific nations in obscure shipping talks, the idea hit the big-time last week as French president Emmanuel Macron and US treasury secretary Janet Yellen discussed it in front of the world’s press.

But, speaking to Climate Home in the lobby of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) London headquarters this week, one of the tax’s key proponents had a message for the likes of Macron and Yellen.

“This money is not to fill in the gap where you failed,” said Marshall Islands shipping talk negotiator Albon Ishoda, a sentiment with support across the developing world.

The $60-80 billion a year should be spent on cleaning up shipping and dealing with any negative economic effects of the tax, he said.

But fear of those negative effects is causing resistance to the proposal.

At the IMO this week, Brazil led a Latin American rebellion against the measure. The continent is concerned that any rise in shipping costs will affect its exports, much of which are cheap, heavy things like soybeans which are shipped to faraway places like China.

And while Europe backs the measure, other wealthy nations like the US and UK are sitting on the fence.

Negotiators at the IMO will decide next week whether to put the levy on a list of measures to deal with climate change. Talks on how much it should be and what it should be spent on would come later.

Other issues include what 2050 emissions reduction goal to set and whether to have 2030 and 2040 goals.

The IMO is gearing up for historic decisions next week that could see the UN shipping regulator adopt a zero-carbon or net zero emissions target.

However, as consensus builds towards adopting a more ambitious strategy at the close of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) next week, IMO delegations remained divided on the timeline for adopting the so-called midterm policy measures that could include a carbon levy or similar mechanism to tax emissions.

Discussions over what to do next will be crucial as the US, European Union, UK and others urge the MEPC to adopt interim targets next week that aim to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent in 2030 and by 96 percent in 2040.

Tense negotiations begin at IMO working group to determine shipping’s decarbonisation goals with China, Brazil, Argentina and other developing countries coming out strongly against a carbon levy as a market-based measure.

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