David Shukman’s Imaginary “Historic” Climate Deal

By Paul Homewood



h/t Robin Guenier & Philip Bratby


David Shukman gets excited about the latest piece of climate wishful thinking:



The global shipping industry has for the first time agreed to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

The move comes after talks all week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.

Shippings has previously been excluded from climate agreements, but under the deal, emissions will be reduced by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

One minister from a Pacific island state described the agreement as "history in the making".

Shipping generates roughly the same quantity of greenhouse gas as Germany and, if it were accounted for as a nation, would rank as the world’s sixth biggest emitter.

Like aviation, it had been excluded from climate negotiations because it is an international activity while both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement involved national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and a few other countries had not wanted to see a target for cutting shipping emissions at all.

By contrast the European Union, including Britain, and small island states had pushed for a cut of 70-100%.

So the deal for a 50% reduction is a compromise which some argue is unrealistic while others say does not far enough.

Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, who had chaired the controversial talks, said: "This initial strategy is not a final statement but a key starting point."

The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands had opened the conference with a plea for action.

Although it has the world’s second largest register of shipping, it had warned that failure to achieve deep cuts would threaten the country’s survival as global warming raises sea levels.

As the talks concluded, the nation’s environment minister David Paul said: "To get to this point has been hard, very hard. And it has involved compromises by all countries. Not least by vulnerable island nations like my own who wanted something, far, far more ambitious than this one."

Mr Paul added: "This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back."

Laurent Parente, the ambassador of Vanuatu, also a Pacific island nation, was not satisfied but hoped the deal would lead to tougher action in future.

"It is the best we could do and is therefore what this delegation will support as the initial strategy that we have no doubt will evolve to higher ambitions in the near future."

By contrast, the head of the US delegation to the talks, Jeffrey Lantz, made clear his country’s opposition to the deal.

"We do not support the establishment of an absolute reduction target at this time," he said.

"In addition, we note that achieving significant emissions reductions, in the international shipping sector, would depend on technological innovation and further improvements in energy efficiency."

Mr Lantz reiterated that the US, under President Trump, has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

He also criticised the way the IMO had handled the talks, describing it as "unacceptable and not befitting this esteemed organisation."

But a clear majority of the conference was in favour of action.

The UK’s shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani, described the agreement as " a watershed moment with the industry showing it is willing to play its part in protecting the planet".

The move will send a signal through the industry that rapid innovation is now needed.

Ships may have to operate more slowly to burn less fuel. New designs for vessels will be more streamlined and engines will have to be cleaner, maybe powered by hydrogen or batteries, or even by the wind.



Ships operating more slowly! Where do they get these crackpot ideas? If they sail more slowly, we will need more ships to carry the traffic, increasing the number of journeys, fuel used, and energy involved in constructing the ships in the first place.

Nowhere either does there appear to be any recognition of the fact that, as the world becomes richer, trade flows will grow, and there will be more demand for shipping.


As usual with these sort of “agreements”, this one is not quite what it seems.

For some reason, the BBC forgot to mention that, far from there being an “agreement to cut emissions”, all that was produced at the talks is a “vision”, as the IMO press release itself tells us:


Nations meeting at the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London have adopted an initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, setting out a vision to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping and phase them out, as soon as possible in this century. 

The vision confirms IMO’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping and, as a matter of urgency, to phasing them out as soon as possible.



Of course, we saw the same fudge at Paris, when all the world declared that they wanted to limit global warming to 2C, but utterly failed to agree on how to actually do it.

Climate Home News has much more detail, showing just how badly David Shukman has misled his readers, not to mention how meaningless the “agreement” so far actually is:


Over the next five years, negotiators are to develop a package of measures to fulfil the target, delivering a final strategy in 2023.”

Now the task is to decide how to meet those climate goals for shipping.”

Talks on implementing the targets are to be guided two principles: “common but differentiated responsibility” between rich and poor countries for tackling climate change, from the UN climate convention; and the IMO rule against discrimination between ships by the country where their flags are registered.”

Another key battleground is how to divide responsibility between the world’s rich and poor, … Russia, Canada and the US were among those warning this could be tricky.”

Developing countries argue the industrialised world should shoulder more work; developed countries including the US and Europeans say everyone needs to do as much as possible.”

“’When it comes to the IMO, CBDR is very difficult to apply, frankly,’ Figueres, former head of UN Climate Change, told journalists outside the IMO last Friday.”

Figueres argued the principle should not become a “straightjacket” or let emerging economies off the hook.”

Maria Skipper Schwenn, executive director … at the trade association Danish Shipping: CBDR cannot be part of any measure, because any measure must be flag-neutral, meaning that the requirements apply equally to all vessels, no matter what flag they fly.’”

Those details will be thrashed out in further rounds of negotiation”



We have been there before, at Copenhagen, and later at Paris. Developing countries, which of course include China, have no intention of sharing their part of the burden.

Worse still, merchant ships can easily switch flags to avoid punitive regulations, making the whole exercise rather worthless.


And as Reuters note:

A final IMO plan is not expected until 2023.

According to the text produced by the IMO working group submitted to member states, the initial strategy would not be legally binding for member states.”


A done deal? I think not.



April 16, 2018 at 04:22PM

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