13.11.2017

Cooperation for Low Carbon Sea Transport

Photo: thinkstock.com/RonaldPhilipBenjamin

Photo: thinkstock.com/RonaldPhilipBenjamin

Germany and the Marshall Islands are intensifying their cooperation on climate action with a new joint project intended to advance the development of low-emission maritime shipping. The German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, the Marshallese Minister of Foreign Affairs John Silk and Environment Minister David Paul announced the project on the margins of the Climate Change Conference in Bonn. The German Environment Ministry will support the project with 9.5 million euros under its International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Minister Hendricks commented: "On a map, the Marshall Islands look like a small, distant archipelago. But at the Climate Change Conference, they are a diplomatic force and important climate pioneers. We are proud to work together with the Marshall Islands on maritime shipping, a globally important topic."

Maritime shipping is the most important industry on the Marshall Islands. The island chain is also among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. With an average height above sea level of two metres at most, rising sea levels, storms and heavy rainfall pose a particular threat to the islands. Drinking water shortages, drought and crop failures are increasing an already significant dependency on imports. 90 percent of the national energy supply is drawn from imports.

The Marshall Islands have set very ambitious goals for themselves in climate action. For example, the country aims to cover 100 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy. Shipping is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

The new project on low-emission shipping will first review low-carbon drive technology for ships in the region. In a second step, a ship will be equipped with the technology selected. The project is meant to send a message on the shift to low-carbon maritime transport, setting an example for other island countries in the region.

As the country with the third longest register of ships in the world, the Marshall Islands are a leading voice in the discussion of emissions reduction at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). This makes the project important as a support in IMO negotiations on the development of a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in maritime transport.

The results of the IKI project will also be incorporated into the work of the Micronesian Sustainable Shipping Center (MSSC), which the Marshall Islands founded jointly with the University of the South Pacific. The centre will research methods for making transport between islands more sustainable and climate-friendly.

Decarbonising shipping was a crucial concern of the former Marshallese Minister of Foreign Affairs Tony de Brum, who was the initiator of the centre and of the bilateral cooperation with Germany on the topic. Minister Hendricks therefore proposed naming the MSSC after Minister de Brum.