New cargo and transport vessels must meet energy efficiency standards and cut carbon pollution, the U.N. agency regulating international shipping decided Friday. The decision came despite opposition from China, India and Brazil.
The new rules from a powerful committee of the International Maritime Organization attack a growing source of greenhouse gases. The policy would also be the first time a measure on climate change applies equally to countries, regardless of whether they are from the industrial or developing world.
About 50,000 cargo ships carry 90 percent of world trade; most of the ships are powered by heavily polluting oil known as bunker fuels. The IMO says shipping was responsible for 2.7 percent of global carbon emissions in 2007, but that would double or even triple by mid-century if no action is taken.
Concluding a weeklong meeting, the IMO’s Environment Protection Committee resolved that all ships built in the future must reduce pollution from today’s average, according to an efficiency index for ships of varying sizes and types.
The new regulations say it will be up to the ship builders to decide how they would meet the new standards.
"As long as the required energy-efficiency level is attained, ship designers and builders would be free to use the most cost-efficient solutions for the ship to comply with the regulations," the resolution said.
But in a concession to developing countries, it deferred the measure for at least four years after it takes effect, probably next year or 2013.
In a further step to win support, it included a provision to promote the transfer of clean ship building technology to developing countries.
The committee also approved a new mechanism to monitor fleet performance to ensure compliance.
The IMO has 169 members, but fewer than half were eligible to vote on the pollution measures, which were adopted by a 48-5 vote, with several abstentions.
"This is a very positive and important first step for a truly global, binding measure to reduce CO2 emissions," Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner on climate action, said from Brussels.
Mark Lutes, who observed the proceedings for the World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, said industrial countries and most developing countries favored the measures, but a hoped-for consensus proved elusive with objections from major countries like Brazil, China and India.
Small island states that lend their flags to merchant ships also were reluctant, since one way toward greater efficiency is to build larger ships that could prove too big for their port facilities.
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