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POINTS TO PONDER

The UN agency responsible for cutting shipping emissions to combat climate change has been accused of operating like a secretive closed shop.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council should give the new working group reforming governance at the UN shipping agency a remit that allows it to effectively increase public scrutiny and civil society participation, Transparency International said.  
Transparency International’s assessment of the IMO’s governance structure published in July 2018 found a number of flaws in the IMO’s governance, including a disproportionate influence of private industry and an unequal influence of certain Member States in the policymaking process. The report also highlighted a significant lack of delegate accountability, with the public often unable to find out their national delegation’s position in debates and negotiations.    
Following publication of Transparency International’s report, the IMO established a working group for reforming the governance of the agency, which regulates global shipping and has a crucial role to play in combatting climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.  
In April 2018, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 2008, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.   
The IMO Council will set the terms of reference for the working group at its next meeting on 19 – 23 November 2018.  
Transparency International is concerned that the UK, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Panama, United Arab Emirates and United States could hamper reform at the IMO. Last month, they signed and submitted an official document to the IMO warning that “further expansion of access to information” about the agency “could lead to outside influence”. 
“Unfortunately the International Maritime Organization is far too susceptible to disproportionate influence from private interests and certain Member States, meaning that there could be obstacles to meeting the targets for emissions reduction set earlier this year,” said Rueben Lifuka, vice-chair of Transparency International. “This is why we want to see governance reform at the IMO. The agency needs to move towards a more open and transparent way of operating, with greater opportunities for public scrutiny and civil society engagement. The stakes are too high for the entire planet for the IMO to continue to operate as a closed shop.”  
The global shipping fleet is rushing to meet the 2020 IMO deadline to reduce air pollution by forcing vessels to use cleaner fuel with a lower sulphur content of 0.5%, compared with 3.5% as currently used.
The move comes after growing concerns about the health impacts of shipping emissions. A report in Nature this year said 400,000 premature deaths a year are caused by emissions from dirty shipping fuel, which also account for 14m childhood asthma cases per year.

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