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Arctic ban on HFO: What to expect from MEPC 72

Clean Arctic Alliance provides summary of latest developments and upcoming MEPC events.

HFO-free Arctic logo. Image credit: Clean Arctic Alliance

Updated on 22 Mar 2018 09:45 GMT

By Clean Arctic Alliance

The agenda of MEPC 72, which runs from 9-13 April at IMO HQ in London, does not include a formal move towards a ban on HFO. However, a number of papers have been submitted from member states and NGOs on the development of measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters.

While NGOs cannot disclose the contents of these papers, on March 13, Foresight Climate and Energy Business reported that one paper, co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US, calls for a ban on HFO.

On March 20, Radio Canada International published a story [entitled] 'Canada moves to dilute Finnish proposal to ban dirty fuels in the Arctic'. Quoting from the MEPC paper:

"A single HFO spill could have devastating and lasting effects on fragile Arctic marine and coastal environments," the Finnish proposal says. "In addition, Arctic shipping is projected to continue to rise, thus increasing the risk of a spill. For these reasons, the ban on HFO should be implemented as soon as possible, and any delay in implementation of the HFO ban by eligible ships should be short-lived."

The content of this paper will set out the stall for how movement towards a ban may occur, and sets up potential tasks for PPR6, the IMO's next meeting of its Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response 18-22 February 2019.

Russia, Canada and Denmark have all supported IMO work to consider ways to mitigate the risks associated with HFO. However, to date, Russia has not supported a ban on use of HFO in the Arctic, and while this appears to be still the case, the Clean Arctic Alliance notes that a Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot is speaking openly about the need to move away from oil-based fuels.

Denmark has not yet made public a formal position on a HFO ban in the Arctic (this appears due to ongoing, but unconcluded consultation with Greenland).

Canada has previously supported a 'phase down' on HFO in a joint Trudeau/Obama announcement in December 2016, and proposed work to mitigate the risks of HFO at MEPC71 in 2017, however this position appears to have changed, and for now remains unclear.

Arctic indigenous attendees at MEPC72

Several Arctic indigenous representatives will be in London the creation of a consistent indigenous representation to the IMO, and also to explain why shipping issues related to climate change and environmental protection are important to their communities. They will attend the IMO meetings as part of NGO delegations, take part in side events and plan to meet with the IMO Secretary General of the IMO. All are available to meet media.

- Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Canada, Inuit Rights Activist & Author
- Verner Wilson, Alaska, Friends of the Earth, formerly with the Bristol Bay Native Association
- Austin Ahmasuk, Alaska, Kawerak, Inc. (Bering Straits regional non-profit)
- Eduard Zdor, Russian Federation, former director of the Chukotka Marine Mammal Hunters Association

From 13:30-14:00, Monday, 10 April, Verner Wilson, Austin Ahmusak and Eduard Zdor will speak at the IMO's 'Arctic indigenous voices: Climate change, new shipping routes and solutions for mitigation and adaptation'.

Side event at MEPC72

The Clean Arctic Alliance is organising a side-event at MEPC72 on Tuesday, 10 April at 17:45: 'Climate crisis: local and global implications of a melting Arctic and new practices for shipping'. The aim is to increase awareness among IMO delegates about the local and global consequences of the current changes taking place in the Arctic, and to demonstrate the necessity for IMO to agree an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse gases from shipping globally and a regional ban on HFO in the Arctic.

The event will consist of a panel presentation involving four short 5-7 minute presentations followed by a drinks reception. Speakers include:

- Dirk Notz, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
- Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Canadian Inuit activist
- Jorn Henriksen, Hurtigruten

International support for an Arctic ban on HFO

Some 90 shipping companies, cruise operators, ports, businesses, explorers, non-governmental organizations and politicians have put their name to the Arctic Commitment, an ambitious civil society initiative calling for ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping, since its launch in Tromso in January 2017.

Conceived by the Clean Arctic Alliance and expedition cruise ship operator Hurtigruten, the Arctic Commitment aims to protect Arctic communities and ecosystems from the risks posed by the use of heavy fuel oil, and calls on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ban its use and carriage as fuel by Arctic shipping.

The Clean Arctic Alliance (CAA) is made up of a team of not-for-profit organisations committed to phasing out the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) as marine fuel in the Arctic.

HFO-Free Arctic is a global campaign committed to protecting the Arctic from the hazards and risks posed by the use of HFO. The campaign is currently working to secure a legally binding phase out of the use of HFO as marine fuel in Arctic waters by 2020. The campaign is led by the Clean Arctic Alliance.

Members of the Clean Arctic Alliance include: Alaska Wilderness League, Bellona, Clean Air Task Force, Danish Ecological Council, Ecology and Development Foundation ECODES, Environmental Investigation Agency, European Climate Foundation, Friends of the Earth US, Greenpeace, Icelandic Nature Conservation Association, Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union, Ocean Conservancy, Pacific Environment, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Stand.Earth, Transport & Environment and WWF.

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