A series of exemptions and waivers would mean a complete HFO ban would only come into effect in mid-2029, which campaigners the Clean Arctic Alliance said would amount to “endorsing continued arctic pollution”.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee signed off on a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters from 2024. Green groups say it has too many loopholes to achieve much.
“It’s excellent that [black carbon] has got so high on the political agenda in the US,” Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, told Climate Home News. “In terms of shipping the news is not so good. Black carbon emissions have been going up by 85% between 2015-2019 in the Arctic."
The Arctic Council Ministerial provides a unique opportunity for foreign ministers to demonstrate global leadership by committing to rapid, Arctic-wide elimination of heavy fuel oil, and to immediate reduction in black carbon emissions from shipping. These commitments can be enshrined in the 2021 Reykjavik Declaration, to be issued at the conclusion of the meeting.
Heavy fuel oil is thick and has a tar-like consistency. That makes spills involving it a major environmental concern. HFO is commonly used to fuel shipping vessels, including in Arctic waters. However, the International Maritime Organization has recently approved a ban on HFO in the Arctic to take effect after July 1, 2024.
"Heavier oils and crude generally don't evaporate much and instead of dispersing they form emulsions with the sea water, are much more persistent, spread further and will sink and become mixed with sediments or on coastlines will smother the beaches, rocks," said Sian Prior, lead advisor with the Clean Arctic Alliance coalition, which has sought to ban the use of heavy fuel oil by ships in the sensitive Arctic region. "Bacteria will work to degrade these oils too but it takes longer. These types of oil spills lead to much greater volumes of oiled material being retrieved as they coat anything."
Use of scrubbers with heavy fuel oil is ‘not a good solution’, according to International Council on Clean Transportation
Article by the Clean Arctic Alliance's Dr Sian Prior in Marine & Oceans, issue 270: "The Arctic is changing, with climate heating having a greater impact on the region than anywhere else on Earth. Not only does this create greater climatic uncertainty for those living both inside and beyond the Arctic, the loss of sea ice opens up the Arctic to new threats, such as oil spills from expanded shipping operations."
To stop emitting CO2, shipping must equip its entire fleet with propulsion technologies that do not yet exist. Cutting black carbon — responsible for 7%-21% of shipping’s climate impact — would be much easier
The IMO’s pollution subcommittee failed to agree on measures to control black carbon emissions from shipping in the Arctic, to green groups’ dismay. States said more studies and debate were needed before rules could be set, despite warnings of soaring pollution from ships.