Friends of the Earth and the IMO

History of Friends of the Earth’s IMO Action

Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth International have been working tirelessly to force the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to strengthen international ship emissions standards.

In 1997, the IMO’s Marine Committee adopted the initial version of Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78).  Annex VI addresses ozone-depleting substances, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, and shipboard incineration, among other items.  Annex VI came into force in May 2005, having been ratified by 49 countries, representing over 74% of the world’s shipping fleet.  It has remained unchanged ever since.  While Annex VI represents a first step in reducing ship emissions, this Annex is quite weak from both a health and technological perspective.

Friends of the Earth has worked to strengthen Annex VI by participating in negotiations at the IMO, generating extensive coverage of the negative health impacts of ship emissions, and submitting technical papers supporting its strengthening.  These actions, along with our policy successes at the state and national levels to reduce air pollution from ships, contributed to the IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee’s decision to finally consider adopting stronger international air pollution standards in the revisions to Annex VI being considered this October.  Friends of the Earth is in London, England from October 6-10 to participate in the meeting at which the IMO is poised to formally approve these strengthened revisions.

Current Standards

Revisions Being Finalized at the 58th Session

Global cap on SOx emissions at 4.5%

Progressive reduction in SOx emissions to 3.5% by 2012, down to 0.5% by 2020, subject to a feasibility review required by 2018 at the latest

1.5% cap on SOx emissions in ECAs

Progressive reductions of SOx to 1.0% by March, 2010, down to 0.1% by the end of 2015

No ECAs for NOx or PM

Designation of ECAs for NOx, PM or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a Party or Parties to Annex VI, that would then be considered for adoption by the IMO, if supported by a demonstrated need to prevent, reduce, and control one or all three of those emissions from ships.

The Annex VI revisions will not only strengthen standards for sulfur oxide emissions from ships, but also allow countries to apply for Emission Control Area (ECA) expansions.  Within ECAs, dramatic reductions in ship emissions will be required, improving air quality and significantly benefiting public health and the environment. Over 60,000 people die globally per year from pollution from ships and every year some 3,700 Californians die due to air pollution from ports and the goods movement.

In addition to Annex VI revisions, the current IMO discussions will also cover the Secretariat's call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, which contribute over one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually to the atmosphere - nearly four percent of all human-produced carbon dioxide worldwide.  With victory at the IMO, Friends of the Earth will turn its attention to establishing an ECA along the entire North American coastline and continue to work with the IMO and other international governing bodies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.