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David Shukman’s Imaginary “Historic” Climate Deal

April 16, 2018
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood



h/t Robin Guenier & Philip Bratby


David Shukman gets excited about the latest piece of climate wishful thinking:



The global shipping industry has for the first time agreed to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

The move comes after talks all week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.

Shippings has previously been excluded from climate agreements, but under the deal, emissions will be reduced by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

One minister from a Pacific island state described the agreement as "history in the making".

Shipping generates roughly the same quantity of greenhouse gas as Germany and, if it were accounted for as a nation, would rank as the world’s sixth biggest emitter.

Like aviation, it had been excluded from climate negotiations because it is an international activity while both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement involved national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and a few other countries had not wanted to see a target for cutting shipping emissions at all.

By contrast the European Union, including Britain, and small island states had pushed for a cut of 70-100%.

So the deal for a 50% reduction is a compromise which some argue is unrealistic while others say does not far enough.

Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, who had chaired the controversial talks, said: "This initial strategy is not a final statement but a key starting point."

The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands had opened the conference with a plea for action.

Although it has the world’s second largest register of shipping, it had warned that failure to achieve deep cuts would threaten the country’s survival as global warming raises sea levels.

As the talks concluded, the nation’s environment minister David Paul said: "To get to this point has been hard, very hard. And it has involved compromises by all countries. Not least by vulnerable island nations like my own who wanted something, far, far more ambitious than this one."

Mr Paul added: "This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back."

Laurent Parente, the ambassador of Vanuatu, also a Pacific island nation, was not satisfied but hoped the deal would lead to tougher action in future.

"It is the best we could do and is therefore what this delegation will support as the initial strategy that we have no doubt will evolve to higher ambitions in the near future."

By contrast, the head of the US delegation to the talks, Jeffrey Lantz, made clear his country’s opposition to the deal.

"We do not support the establishment of an absolute reduction target at this time," he said.

"In addition, we note that achieving significant emissions reductions, in the international shipping sector, would depend on technological innovation and further improvements in energy efficiency."

Mr Lantz reiterated that the US, under President Trump, has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

He also criticised the way the IMO had handled the talks, describing it as "unacceptable and not befitting this esteemed organisation."

But a clear majority of the conference was in favour of action.

The UK’s shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani, described the agreement as " a watershed moment with the industry showing it is willing to play its part in protecting the planet".

The move will send a signal through the industry that rapid innovation is now needed.

Ships may have to operate more slowly to burn less fuel. New designs for vessels will be more streamlined and engines will have to be cleaner, maybe powered by hydrogen or batteries, or even by the wind.


Ships operating more slowly! Where do they get these crackpot ideas? If they sail more slowly, we will need more ships to carry the traffic, increasing the number of journeys, fuel used, and energy involved in constructing the ships in the first place.

Nowhere either does there appear to be any recognition of the fact that, as the world becomes richer, trade flows will grow, and there will be more demand for shipping.


As usual with these sort of “agreements”, this one is not quite what it seems.

For some reason, the BBC forgot to mention that, far from there being an “agreement to cut emissions”, all that was produced at the talks is a “vision”, as the IMO press release itself tells us:


Nations meeting at the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London have adopted an initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, setting out a vision to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping and phase them out, as soon as possible in this century. 

The vision confirms IMO’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping and, as a matter of urgency, to phasing them out as soon as possible.


Of course, we saw the same fudge at Paris, when all the world declared that they wanted to limit global warming to 2C, but utterly failed to agree on how to actually do it.

Climate Home News has much more detail, showing just how badly David Shukman has misled his readers, not to mention how meaningless the “agreement” so far actually is:


Over the next five years, negotiators are to develop a package of measures to fulfil the target, delivering a final strategy in 2023.”

Now the task is to decide how to meet those climate goals for shipping.”

Talks on implementing the targets are to be guided two principles: “common but differentiated responsibility” between rich and poor countries for tackling climate change, from the UN climate convention; and the IMO rule against discrimination between ships by the country where their flags are registered.”

Another key battleground is how to divide responsibility between the world’s rich and poor, … Russia, Canada and the US were among those warning this could be tricky.”

Developing countries argue the industrialised world should shoulder more work; developed countries including the US and Europeans say everyone needs to do as much as possible.”

“’When it comes to the IMO, CBDR is very difficult to apply, frankly,’ Figueres, former head of UN Climate Change, told journalists outside the IMO last Friday.”

Figueres argued the principle should not become a “straightjacket” or let emerging economies off the hook.”

Maria Skipper Schwenn, executive director … at the trade association Danish Shipping: CBDR cannot be part of any measure, because any measure must be flag-neutral, meaning that the requirements apply equally to all vessels, no matter what flag they fly.’”

Those details will be thrashed out in further rounds of negotiation”


We have been there before, at Copenhagen, and later at Paris. Developing countries, which of course include China, have no intention of sharing their part of the burden.

Worse still, merchant ships can easily switch flags to avoid punitive regulations, making the whole exercise rather worthless.


And as Reuters note:

A final IMO plan is not expected until 2023.

According to the text produced by the IMO working group submitted to member states, the initial strategy would not be legally binding for member states.”


A done deal? I think not.

  1. Jack Broughton permalink
    April 16, 2018 9:06 pm

    Sailing ships to make a come-back alongside windmills? Back to the 18th Century!

  2. April 16, 2018 9:11 pm

    Never mind, it will keep lots of bureaucrats employed having meetings and talks in exotic locations around the world for years to come. No doubt they will all travel to the meetings by sailing ships and rowing boats.

    • dave permalink
      April 16, 2018 9:38 pm

      Shipping is responsible for just 3% of world use of oil – i.e. less than 1% of fossil fuels as a whole. It is already efficient. More stupid posturing.

  3. markl permalink
    April 16, 2018 11:09 pm

    “…common but differentiated responsibility” between rich and poor countries…” is nothing but wealth redistribution. I find it hard to believe that more people aren’t questioning the ‘developing country’ designations in these so call climate agreements. We’re all going to die because CO2 is being emitted but it’s OK for the poor countries to do so? And if we shift all production to those poor countries the same amount (if not more) of CO2 will be generated on the same planet to produce those goods. How is this reconciled?

  4. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 17, 2018 2:44 am


    Apparently many ocean vessels are less clean than they could be, so maybe room for improvement.
    If cutting CO2 output is the goal — go nuclear.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      April 17, 2018 6:56 am

      There’ve been surprisingly few nuclear merchant ships since the technology was first used submarines. As far as I am aware four, starting with The Savannah and most recently the Russian vessel was refitted and returned to service after many years of being laid up. None were particularly successful. As low costs are particularly important in transport I suspect that Nuclear is more expensive overall than conventional diesel and taxation and legislation on fossil fuel will be required raising costs to the consumer with all the negative effects that entails. Politicians can never encourage change without raising taxes.

  5. April 17, 2018 3:04 am

    Small, modular molten salt nuclear reactors are, of course the answer; but it is a politically incorrect solution. As for safety; in the event of a sinking, the solidified radioactive salts can be removed from the wreck without eco contamination.

    Meanwhile a lot of conference CO2 will be emitted and no one will dare to say it is all a waste of time.

    PS: As an aside, Batteries do not PRODUCE energy.

    • Nigel S permalink
      April 17, 2018 7:19 am

      Batteries produce money if you install them on your solar farm and get paid for smoothing out the supply problems you cause. They are part of the proposed mix on the 900 acre Graveney monster. An Anglo-Saxon trading vessel was found there in 1970. I don’t thing climate change can be pinned on it.

  6. Chris Treise permalink
    April 17, 2018 7:54 am

    So the shipping companies reduce their profits by operating inefficient ships? I can see the CEOs of those companies having something to say if that were the case!

  7. Phoenix44 permalink
    April 17, 2018 8:38 am

    It will simply never happen. It is impossible to track and impossible to enforce. It would be too insane even for the Greens to try and track every ship and work out how fast it is going in the given sea conditions and thus how much CO2 it is emitting.

    This is hand-waving waffle of the most absurd kind.

  8. keith permalink
    April 17, 2018 8:54 am

    So more Fake News from the BBC. What a surprise!

    • BLACK PEARL permalink
      April 17, 2018 11:16 am

      Not just Fake News they’ve all got Fake Jobs paid for by our Real Money

  9. Robin Guenier permalink
    April 17, 2018 11:27 am

    Far from being “history in the making” or “a watershed moment”, it’s no more than an aspiration that something might be done within the next 32 years.

  10. Bloke down the pub permalink
    April 17, 2018 11:30 am

    Making the ships travel more slowly will not lead to a significant increase in the number of vessels required. It will, however, mean that cargoes currently travelling by sea that still have a price premium for speed, will transfer when possible to air freight. Airbus have been having trouble of late selling all of their production of A380, so they might jump at the opportunity of producing all freight versions to keep the line running.

  11. April 17, 2018 11:54 am

    There’s a few stylistic flourishes that make me suspect that the piece wasn’t entirely David’s own work – and that Harrabin had a hand in the article’s drafting…

    Still unadulterated BS whoever wrote it though.

  12. John Scott permalink
    April 17, 2018 12:16 pm

    What is the baseline year? Shipowners have already improved fuel efficiency by use of more efficient engines, slow steaming, larger ships – which are naturally more fuel efficient. greater use of low sulfur fuels. Ships have the lowest “footprint” of any transportation system with air. being the choice of the so called elites who draft stupid standards. Having been there IMO takes at least 20 years to produce even the simplest of changes, but, its is a great place for “lesser developed world|” troughers. Enforcement will be all smoke and mirrors. Trust the bureaucratic crazies at the EU for being the leaders – nothing will deter them from their Green Quest – not even the truth.

  13. April 17, 2018 1:52 pm

    Over the next five years, negotiators are to develop a package of measures to fulfil the target

    So it’s just another job creation scheme for bureaucrats. The US has pretty much said it’s not interested.

  14. dennisambler permalink
    April 17, 2018 1:56 pm

    The UN is nothing if not patient, remember that it took eight years from the Kyoto Accord to the binding Kyoto Protocol.

    After Copenhagen, in 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, commissioned a “High Level” advisory group to look at Climate Change Financing. Their report was released three weeks before the Cancun Climate Conference in 2010. Its members included Lord Stern, Chris Huhne, George Soros, Christine Lagarde and Deutsche Bank, amongst others.

    “The Advisory Group emphasized the importance of a carbon price in the range of US$20-US$25 per ton of CO2 equivalent in 2020 as a key element of reaching the US$100 billion per year.

    The higher the carbon price, the steeper the rise in available revenues and the stronger the mutual reinforcement of abatement potentials and different measures.

    Among the proposals put forward by the group were taxes on aviation jet fuel, airline passenger tickets, and “bunker fuel,” the heavy diesel fuel used by maritime shippers.

    Revenues from carbon taxes were also proposed, based on a tax on carbon emissions in developed countries, raised on a per-ton-emitted basis.

    Up to US$10 billion could be mobilized from other instruments, such as the redeployment of fossil fuel subsidies in developed countries or some form of financial transaction tax, though diverging views will make it difficult to implement this universally.”

    These are familiar ideas that continue to be re-presented regularly, on the basis that familiarity breeds acceptance.

  15. Coeur de Lion permalink
    April 17, 2018 2:00 pm

    Poor silly Shukperson

  16. Athelstan permalink
    April 17, 2018 2:35 pm

    I tend to look at the situation the other way’s around, shipping stuff by sea and inland canal, river is by far and away the most efficient method of mass transportation bar none.

    What’s their fekkin problem?

  17. Bloke down the pub permalink
    April 17, 2018 6:02 pm

    Legislation that has increased the costs of energy supply in developed nations has led to more goods being produced overseas and therefore the emissions due to shipping have increased. Another case of the unintended consequences of green legislation.

  18. Rudolph Hucker permalink
    April 18, 2018 8:00 am

    I suppose the ‘loonies’ will want steam ships powered by wood pellets!

  19. Anders Valland permalink
    April 18, 2018 8:57 am

    The propulsion power need of a ship scales to the cube of its speed. The trick of slowing down a knot or two is well known as a fuel saver, and it can readily be invoked in negotiating contracts. In addition to this, most ships have excess cargo carrying capacity, i.e. they travel part of their journey with empty holds (sometimes a large fraction of the time). It is possible to increase utilization, reduce speed and implement a range of other means that will make ships even more efficient than they are today. Most people do not realize it, but ships are generally the most efficient means of transport we have and they will stay that way for the overseeable future.

    I am part of a major research group taking on this formidable challenge, and we have already identified practical, implementable steps that will take us very close to the 50% reduction they speak of. And we are doing this together with major industry players, and they do not fiddle around with green fantasies – they want and demand bang for the buck.

    I’m not in this for ‘saving the earth’ or avoiding climate-fantasy-doomsday. I’m in it to reduce the impact of shipping on our fuel resources, and the local emissions that are of real concern around the major shipping lanes.

    The next obvious step, technically, is using nuclear. But politically that is still not an option. Which really says all you need about how ‘urgent’ the climate stuff is.

  20. Vernon E permalink
    April 18, 2018 9:24 am

    Why are all the references illustrated by container ships? Where are all the monster cruise liners in all this – are they going to slow down as well?

  21. April 18, 2018 12:02 pm

    The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), is a Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier in the service of the United States Navy.

    It seems to putt about right smartly.

  22. April 18, 2018 12:03 pm

    The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is a Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier in the service of the United States Navy.

    It seems to putt about right smartly.

  23. Bob Lyman permalink
    April 19, 2018 12:02 am

    I love the comment that ships will just have to go slower, operate on batteries, or use wind. The international community has discovered the solution to catastrophic global warming. We are going back to the age of wind-powered vessels. I wonder whether any of these illustrious representatives ever read books set in previous centuries during which sailing ships were set in the doldrums (i.e. not depressed, just not going anywhere) because there was no wind. It happens often to wind farms on land, which is why they are so unreliable. And a battery big enough for a ship! There would be no room left for cargo. What a joke!

  24. April 19, 2018 2:21 am

    Shukman has never allowed facts, sense or truth to get in the way of self-promotion.

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