MEPC 76: Black carbon and EGCS discussions postponed

MEPC 76: Black carbon and EGCS discussions postponed

Approval of new draft guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), which were prepared in February 2020, has been deferred for a second time as the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) struggles with limited meeting hours.

The draft 2020 EGCS Guidelines, updating the 2015 EGCS Guidelines, were finalised at the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 7) in February 2020 and were due for approval at the 75th session of MEPC in the spring of 2020.

However, MEPC 75 was delayed until November 2020, when it was held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The remote IMO meetings are only scheduled to run for three hours per day, compared to normal full-day meetings held at IMO’s London headquarters.

Both MEPC 75, and MEPC 76 which ran from 10 to 17 June, have prioritised the discussions of potential policy instruments for reducing greenhouse gas emission from international shipping. As those discission take a lot of time, many other agenda items have been delayed.

According to the planned agenda for MEPC 76, the Committee was due to discuss final comments relating to the draft 2020 EGCS Guidelines, and guidance on how to deal with temporary EGCS monitoring and system malfunctions.

A number of proposals regarding the title and scope of a new agenda item concerning discharge water from exhaust gas cleaning systems were also up for consideration. This IMO work output has been driven by concerns about the environmental impact of discharges from scrubber systems. It is controversial as there are calls for banning or phasing out open-loop scrubber systems.  Studies into the impacts of EGCS discharges have not helped settle the subject as they have diverging conclusions.

Another agenda item that was deferred to MEPC 77 was discussions about reducing the impact on the Arctic of Black Carbon emissions from international shipping. Submissions both to MEPC 75, including one submitted by IPIECA and IBIA to MEPC 75, and further submission to MEPC 76 were due to be considered, following up on deliberations at PPR 8 earlier this year.

IBIA has participated actively in these discussions and supports promoting voluntary measures to reduce black carbon emissions in the Artic.

As MEPC 76 drew to a close without black carbon emissions in the Arctic being further discussed, three environmental NGOs complained bitterly about this delay, warning that the Artic is warming faster than the rest of the planet and sea ice in the region is melting alarmingly fast. Four member states supported these concerns and said black carbon impact on the Artic should be given priority at MEPC 77.

MEPC 77 has been tentatively scheduled for 8 to 12 November, 2021.

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