IMO gets it right …. finally
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Members of the Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth International delegations let out a collective sigh of relief this afternoon when the IMO approved a major amendment to MARPOL Annex VI, an international agreement governing air pollution from ships. On a day that was filled with plenary sessions, working groups, and presentations, the IMO finally took a step towards cleaning up the historically under-regulated shipping industry by approving the Annex VI revisions. Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth International have been fighting for years to push the IMO to regulate the ever expanding shipping industry and its deadly air pollution emissions. The IMO finally realized that it had to take steps to govern ship air emissions as a means of potentially forestalling a patchwork of individual regulations developed by countries and states severely polluted by the shipping industry. The Annex VI approval is a long-postponed wake up call for the shipping industry which has historically fought any attempts to regulate it.
When the Annex was finally approved today, great applause broke out in the hall where Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth International members — who were practically spilling out of the designation area at various points — were on hand to witness this historic occasion. The U.S. delegation was also happy with the outcome, having led the working group spearheading the difficult revisions. In light of the monumental achievement won today, Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth International delegation members had to celebrate the occasion. Since we are in London, tea was served immediately!
Looking forward, the Friends of the Earth delegation will most likely encounter a harsh reality on Friday when the delegation attends the plenary session in which debate will continue on the issue of greenhouse gas reduction measures for ships, an issue which is unresolved and appears to be deadlocked. Although we are likely headed for another drawn out battle with the shipping industry on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ocean-going vessels, today’s action demonstrates that tenacity, creativity, and dogged work eventually pays off in a cleaner environment. Hopefully, some progress on the topic will be made on Friday as the IMO week-long meeting draws to a close, providing important groundwork on this issue for the next IMO meeting in the summer of 2009.