Media Briefing: At MEPC 80, the Shipping Sector Must Set Course for 50% Emission Cuts by 2023 – Including Black Carbon

Clean Arctic Alliance Media Briefing Ahead of MEPC 80: 3-7 July 2023

In Celebration of the Life of Verner Wilson III

Next week’s International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (IMO, MEPC 80) meeting in London is set to finalise the revision of the organization’s greenhouse gas strategy, which is crucial for setting the course for reduction of climate warming emissions from the shipping sector – and for its eventual decarbonisation. Shipping accounts for almost 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than Germany’s overall emissions and close to that of Japan. A report published this week shows that ships can achieve 36-47% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 2008 levels by deploying 5-10% zero or near-zero emission fuels, wind-assist technologies, and by ‘climate optimising’ the speed of ships. 

See below for details on black carbon emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, emission control areas, scrubber and scrubber discharges and underwater noise.

At MEPC 80, the Clean Arctic Alliance is calling is on IMO Member States to:

What the Clean Arctic Alliance says:

“News that the Arctic – a major regulator of the global climate – considered by climate scientists to now be warming as much as four times faster than the planet as a whole, and the possibility of days with no summer sea ice – known as blue ocean events – as soon as the 2030s raises serious concerns” said Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Dr Sian Prior. “As the planet is already considered to have heated by around 1.1 degrees Celsius, we must take advantage of ‘low-hanging fruit’ like slashing black carbon emissions”.

“We have known for around three decades that reducing black carbon emissions is necessary, due to its climate and health impacts. On land, considerable effort has been made to ban dirtier fuels in power stations, and to install diesel particulate filters on land-based transport, but despite over a decade of prevarication the same efforts have not yet been made at sea”, said Prior.

“Yet the shipping sector has the power to rapidly reduce emissions of black carbon”, continued Prior. “Reducing black carbon emissions from shipping in and near the Arctic is straightforward, does not require development of new fuels or new technology, and can be achieved immediately.”

“Individual marine engines would see up to a 80% reduction in black carbon emissions depending on the engine by moving from heavy fuels to diesel fuels (the type and condition of the engine, and load of the ship are also factors). Moving all the ships operating in the Arctic and currently using heavy fuels will result in around a 44% reduction in black carbon emissions. Installing a diesel particulate filter – an existing technology used in land-based transport but which can only be used with cleaner fuels, would reduce black carbon emissions by over 90%.”

About Black Carbon
Black carbon is a short-lived climate pollutant, produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, with an impact more than three thousand times that of CO2 over a 20 year period. It makes up around one-fifth of international shipping’s climate impact.

Not only does it contribute to warming while in the atmosphere, black carbon accelerates melting if deposited onto snow and ice – hence it has a disproportionate impact when released in and near to the Arctic. The melting snow and ice exposes darker areas of land and water and these dark patches then absorb further heat from the sun and the reflective capacity of the planet’s polar ice caps is severely reduced. More heat in the polar systems – results in increased melting. This is the loss of the albedo effect.

Declines in sea ice extent and volume are leading to a burgeoning social and environmental crisis in the Arctic, while cascading changes are impacting global climate and ocean circulation. Scientists have high confidence that processes are nearing points beyond which rapid and irreversible changes on the scale of multiple human generations are possible. Scientists say it is now too late to save summer Arctic sea ice, and research has shown that “preparations need to be made for the increased extreme weather across the northern hemisphere that is likely to occur as a result.”

Black carbon also has a negative impact on human health, and recent research has found black carbon particles in the body tissues of foetuses, following inhalation by pregnant mothers.

The need to reduce emissions of black carbon because of both the climate and health impacts has been long recognised. On land, considerable effort has been made to ban dirtier fuels in power stations, to install diesel particulate filters on land-based transport, and to improve the burning of dry wood – all to reduce emissions of black carbon and improve air quality. However, at sea the same efforts have not yet been made.


Background to issues under discussion at MEPC80:

Black Carbon

NGO Black Carbon papers:
MEPC 80/9/1: Reducing Black Carbon emissions in the Arctic
MEPC 80/9/2: Geographic scope of Black Carbon emissions in the Arctic

  • At MEPC 80, IMO member states must agree on short term measures to dramatically cut shipping’s climate impacts by almost 50% by 2030.
  • During MEPC, Member States must use the opportunity to take stock and resolve to develop and submit concrete proposals for mandatory IMO measures to reduce black carbon emissions. Such proposals must be submitted before the end of the year to PPR 11 which meets in February 2024.
  • The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee will be meeting for the 17th time since the IMO agreed – at MEPC 62 in 2011 – to a work program to cut ship black carbon impact on the Arctic. Since then, no regulations have yet been agreed or implemented. At MEPC 80 black carbon will be discussed in relation to the geographic scope of measures to reduce emissions – which was pushed from MEPC 79 to PPR and then back again from PPR 10 to MEPC 80. Black carbon may be included in the terms of reference for a working group at MEPC 80.
  • Black carbon, unlike CO2 which remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, is a short- lived climate forcer which remains airborne for a few days. Yet black carbon’s warming impact on the atmosphere is so powerful that on a 20 year timescale it accounts for 21% of shipping’s climate impact.

BlogLow Hanging Fruit: Reducing Shipping Black Carbon Emissions This Decade

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

NGO paper: MEPC 80/7/11: Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report and its implications for the levels of ambition and follow-up action that must be included in the IMO’s revised GHG Strategy
CE Delft report:Shipping GHG emissions 2030: Analysis of the maximum technical abatement potential

  • This document outlines key relevant findings from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changeʹs Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Report, which was released on 20 March 2023.
  • Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global heating.
  • Climate heating has already caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. These losses and damages are unequally distributed across systems, regions and sectors.
  • The magnitude and rate of climate heating and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions. Changes in short-lived climate forcers, such as black carbon, lead to an additional net global heating in the near and long term.
  • Delayed mitigation actions will further increase global heating, losses and damages will rise, and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.
  • Multilateral governance efforts can help reconcile contested interests, world views and values about how to address climate heating. Improvements to national and international governance structures would further enable the decarbonisation of shipping and aviation through deployment of low-emissions fuels, for example through stricter efficiency and carbon intensity standards.
  • Engaging Indigenous Peoples and local communities using just-transition and rights- based decision-making approaches, implemented through collective and participatory decision-making processes has enabled deeper ambition and accelerated action in different ways, and at all scales, depending on national circumstances.
Infographic: Emission Control Areas - Reducing Air Pollution From Shipping
Download: Infographic: Emission Control Areas – Reducing Air Pollution From Shipping

Emission Control Areas

NGO paper: MEPC 80/16/6: Emission Control Areas – a feasible, replicable pathway to achieving considerable emissions reductions and protecting human health and the environment

The Clean Arctic Alliance calls on IMO Member States to support new emission control areas (ECAs) which will reduce air pollution (SOx, PM and NOx) in the Arctic and north Atlantic. While two papers announcing potential new proposals for ECAs – one in the Canadian Arctic and one in the north-east Atlantic extending potentially into Arctic waters will be the subject of discussion at MEPC 80, no decisions will be made at this stage. However, it’s crucial that countries show support for new ECAs – important for addressing the impact of air pollution on Arctic communities and for reducing black carbon emissions from ships being transported into the Arctic.

  • This document welcomes the submissions from Canada to propose the designation of an ECA in Canadian Arctic waters, and from the North-East Atlantic Ocean littoral states to propose the designation of an Atlantic ECA.
  • The designation of these ECAs is a fundamental step towards cleaner air and healthy coastal communities, by tackling the harmful effects of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) in particularly affected regions and sensitive ecosystems like the Arctic.
  • NGOs encourage other countries to follow suit by adopting ECAs in their respective waters while also stepping away from counter-productive solutions, including switching to LNG and scrubbers.

Other ECA papers:

  • MEPC 80/16/2 – Development of a Proposal to Designate a Canadian Arctic Emission Control Area for Nitrogen Oxides, Sulphur Oxides, and Particulate Matter
    • Submitted by: Canada
    •  Key Messages:
      • This submission is a proposal to designate an Emission Control Area (ECA) in Canadian Arctic waters.
      • This ECA would require ships to use fuel with a sulphur content no greater than 0.1% m/m (or an equivalent compliance method), and would require all ships constructed on or after the date of adoption (or a later specified date) to comply with NOx Tier III limits as specified in MARPOL Annex VI.
      • Canada’s submission to MEPC 81 will contain a complete analysis of how the prospective Canadian Arctic ECA satisfies each of the eight criteria for the designation of an ECA established under Appendix III to MARPOL Annex VI. Canada will also prepare draft amendments to include the proposed Canadian Arctic ECA in the appropriate paragraphs of Regulations 13 and 14 of MARPOL Annex VI. A summary of the Canadian intended proposal to establish the Canadian Arctic ECA is provided below.

MEPC 80/INF.35 – Ongoing work on a future proposal for the designation of an Emission Control Area in the North-East Atlantic Ocean, pursuant to MARPOL Annex VI

    • Submitted by: Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg,
    • Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and the European Commission
    • North-East Atlantic Ocean littoral states
    •  Key Messages:
      • This document provides information on the ongoing work regarding the possible designation of a North-East Atlantic Ocean Emission Control Area under MARPOL Annex VI.
      • A potential future ECA in the North-East Atlantic Ocean, for SOX and PM emissions and NOX emissions linking the existing ECAs in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel with the recently adopted Mediterranean Sea SOX ECA, would constitute a fundamental step towards tackling air pollution from international shipping.


  • MEPC 80/16/5 – Comments on document MEPC 80/16/2
    • Submitted by: Inuit Circumpolar Council
    •  Key Messages:
      • This document welcomes and comments on the intentions of Canada to propose the designation of a Canadian ECA and stresses the need to have an accompanying equitable transition framework in place to ensure economic hardship, which would impact Inuit communities who did not cause the climate crisis but are being the most impacted, does not occur.
      • Inuit Nunaat is warming three to four times faster than the rest of the planet. These changes have unprecedented and significant impacts on people in the Arctic, especially Inuit who are on the frontlines and experience impacts of severe weather changes, and whose cultural foundation and livelihoods thrive on the very nature of the Arctic environment of cold, snow and ice.
      • A just and equitable transition must align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizing and implementing Indigenous rights and considering Indigenous self-determination and self-governance. An equitable transition in this Canadian case would ensure that any increased costs for the use of cleaner fuels are not passed on to disproportionately affected climate vulnerable Inuit communities.

Underwater Noise (MEPC 80/10/1)
IMO: Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 9), 23-27 January 2023
Clean Arctic Alliance: NGOs Welcome Initial Steps But Demand Greater Urgency On Reducing Underwater Noise Pollution and its effect On Marine Life

The revised guidelines on underwater noise are expected to be approved by MEPC 80.

The Clean Arctic Alliance urges IMO Member States to support the approval of revised underwater noise guidelines by MEPC 80, and recognise the importance of engaging in the discussion of next steps on uptake of guidelines and the need for mandatory measures.

Scrubbers (MEPC 80/5/5)
CAA urges IMO Member States to recognise the Importance of restrictions on scrubbers and waste discharges in Arctic

Note: there are three submissions to MEPC on scrubbers. MEPC 80/5/5 from EU Member States and the European Commission which proposes regulatory amendments on scrubbers and scrubber discharges, and two commenting papers (MEPC 80/5/6, MEPC 80/5/7) from Japan. It is anticipated that all the papers will be forwarded to PPR 11, however support from Member States for additional protection for the Arctic from the impacts of scrubbers and scrubber discharges would be welcome.


Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, [email protected], +34 691 826 764

About the Clean Arctic Alliance
Made up of 20 not-for-profit organisations, the Clean Arctic Alliance campaigns to persuade governments to take action to protect the Arctic, its wildlife and its people.

Members include: The Altai Project, Alaska Wilderness League, Bellona, Clean Air Task Force, Green Transition Denmark, Ecology and Development Foundation ECODES, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth US, Global Choices, Greenpeace, Iceland Nature Conservation Association, International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union, Ocean Conservancy, Pacific Environment, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Stand.Earth, Transport & Environment and WWF.

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