Green campaigners are calling on the global shipping sector to step up action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, improve fuel efficiency, and limit the use of polluting heavy fuels as the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) environmental protection committee meets in London this week.
At the meeting, which runs until 28 October, the Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is expected to discuss and consider the adoption of a number of measures aimed at reducing emissions from international shipping.
The discussions follow this month's historic agreement by the UN-backed International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to tackle emissions from aviation, the one other industry besides shipping not covered by the Paris Agreement.
On the MEPC's agenda are proposed mandatory requirements for ships above 5,000 tonnes in weight to record and report on their fuel consumption, a global implementation date for a cap on sulphur in fuel oil, and the establishment of a working group for an "in-depth debate" on how to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.
The committee - which government organisations, NGOs and all 171 IMO member states are invited to attend - is also expected to consider designating the North Sea and Baltic Sea as emission control areas for nitrogen oxides (NOx) from 2021.
Ahead of the meeting, WWF-UK led calls from green groups for the IMO to globally ban the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO), which the group claims poses a pollution threat from potential spillages as well as high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
It follows calls last week from more than 45 global shipping organisations for "ambitious" action to force carbon emission cuts on the industry in light of the Paris climate deal, which officially comes into force next month.
The use of HFO for ship operations has already been phased out in the Southern Ocean and around Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic, but WWF said the ban should be rolled out more widely in the region as increased shipping in the area poses a higher threat of a major spill.
Due to the severe weather conditions, effective clean-up of an HFO spill in the Arctic is "impossible", while such a spill could spread over thousands of square kilometres, posing a threat to seabirds, the marine ecosystem and livelihoods such as fishing, WWF said.
WWF Arctic spokesman Andrew Dumbrille said there was already some momentum behind taking action on HFO.
"The US and Canada agreed this year to look at how best to address the risks from HFO," he said. "We are telling them, and the other countries of the world, that the best way to address the risks is to bring in a ban on using it as a shipping fuel."
According to WWF, burning HFO for fuel also contributes to climate change, with emissions from the global shipping sector projected to grow by as much as 250 per cent over the coming decades.
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's climate and energy practice, said the shipping transport sector had to play its part in the drive to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.
"This means the shipping transport sector has an important role to play, and we are expecting them to move quickly to design and implement measures that will add to the global momentum to change climate change," he said.
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