Pacific islands are on a collision course with the shipping industry

Comment: The shipping industry could undermine global climate efforts. But Pacific islands and EU nations are joining together to force them to change.

A Taiwanese fishing vessel stranded on a reef in the Solomon Islands in 2007. (Photo: US Navy)


The international shipping sector sits outside the Paris climate agreement, yet it is a significant and growing source of carbon emissions.

Unless it is controlled, shipping will undermine all our national efforts to achieve the agreement’s temperature goals.

The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) latest report, which includes the effects of all their current policy measures, expects shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions to grow 50-250% between 2012 and 2050.

We strongly believe that although shipping is a vital lifeline for our islands and an enabler of our access to global markets, this is no justification for complacency on its carbon emissions. And we have been taking action to address this.

Earlier this month, following the third Pacific Regional Transport and Energy Ministers meeting in Tonga, two important announcements were made.

The first was of the formation of the High Ambition Coalition for Shipping – a small group of Pacific and EU countries that have been working together to submit papers to IMO urging it to make progressive, ambitious and effective policy on international shipping’s emissions.

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Together with my country, we are proud to count the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Kiribati, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Sweden, Denmark and Antigua as members.

The second announcement was of a paper submitted to IMO by the Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands expressing their continued insistence that this ambition should be of the very highest level – to ensure that shipping plays its part in curbing global warming within a 1.5C guardrail.

This is an essential target that protects the very fabric and future of vulnerable Pacific island nations like our own.

The High Ambition Coalition for shipping group was formed with the dedicated efforts of Pacific and EU countries and minimal resources.

It is a small group not because of elitism, but because of its constrained resources. However, its membership is now growing, as the IMO embarks on its roadmap to produce an initial strategy on greenhouse gases in 2018, in time for the important global conference on climate change later in that year.

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I believe many countries share the Solomon Island’s concerns related to this issue – many are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

We need all sectors to contribute urgently to decarbonisation, while acknowledging our strong reliance on the services of the shipping industry.

Only by some involvement in the debates on this topic can we be sure that our significant concerns will be addressed – and with our specific interests in mind.

Shipping is a sector we all need. It embodies global trade and keeps the global economy ticking. Yet now is the right time for the sector to act, and accept its fair share of the global climate challenge.

Ambassador Moses Kouni Mose is Solomon Islands ambassador to the European Union

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