December 14 - The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), representing the global shipping industry, has welcomed the Paris climate change agreement, which was adopted unanimously on December 12 by 195 nations.

ICS says that the global shipping industry remains committed to ambitious CO2 emission reduction across the entire world merchant fleet, reducing CO2 per tonne-km by at least 50 percent before 2050 compared to 2007.

Despite the absence of an explicit reference to shipping, ICS says that the message from the world's governments is clear.

"I am sure IMO member states will now proceed with new momentum to help the industry deliver ever greater CO2 reductions, as the world moves towards total decarbonisation by the end of the century," said ICS secretary general Peter Hinchliffe.

ICS will now engage in discussions with the IMO about the possibility of agreeing a CO2 reduction target for shipping. ICS is also pushing for the IMO to finalise a global CO2 data collection system for ships, which the organisation would like to see made mandatory as soon as possible.

According to ICS, dramatic CO2 reductions from shipping will only be guaranteed if further regulation continues to be led by IMO. Encouragingly for ICS, as a result of the Paris agreement, developing nations such as China and India have now accepted responsibility to curb their emissions alongside developed economies. However, said ICS, the agreement still retains the principle of 'differentiation' whereby different parties can offer different levels of commitment to reduce CO2.

"CO2 is a global problem and shipping is a global industry. IMO is the only forum which can take account of the UN principle of 'differentiation' while requiring all ships to apply the same CO2 reduction measures, regardless of their flag state," said Hinchliffe.

"Unilateral or regional regulation would be disastrous for shipping and disastrous for global CO2 reduction, whereas IMO is already helping shipping to deliver substantial CO2 reductions on a global basis."

ICS says that the complexity and scale of the Paris agreement means that many involved may be disappointed by certain aspects, including the absence of explicit text referring to international shipping.

At the start of the negotiation, ICS had hoped there might have been an acknowledgment of the importance of IMO continuing to develop further CO2 reduction measures, applicable to all internationally trading ships, and implemented and enforced in a uniform and global manner.

"Time finally ran out to agree a compromise on international transport acceptable to all nations, but nothing is really lost. No text is probably preferable to some of the well intentioned words being proposed at the very end of the conference which few people understood and which could have actually greatly complicated further progress at IMO," suggested Hinchliffe.

"The member states at IMO are the same nations that were present in Paris, but with officials that have a deep level of maritime expertise. Intensive work at IMO will continue with the global shipping industry's full support."