The Clean Arctic Alliance, an international coalition of 21 non-profit organizations, last week called on the ‘International Maritime Organization’ (IMO) to take the bold step of immediately banning ships from using heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. The call comes at the start of a week-long virtual meeting of the IMO’s Subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response, which began on March 22. Switching to cleaner fuels in the Arctic could reduce soot emissions by 44 percent.
The Arctic is warming faster and faster and as sea ice continues to melt, Arctic waters are becoming increasingly navigable for ships carrying heavy fuel oil (HFO). HFO, one of the dirtiest fuels in the world, is not only virtually impossible to clean up in the event of a spill, but also produces more air and climate pollutants than other marine fuels.
“Changing fuels to reduce soot emissions in the Arctic would be an easy win for both the IMO and the shipping industry. Most importantly, reducing soot from the Arctic is also a win for the climate, and the people whose livelihoods depend on their ecosystem,” said Dr. Sian Prior spokesperson for Clean Arctic Alliance
Earlier, he added: “The bunker industry, which supplies fuel for shipping, has indicated that in order to support a phase-out of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic, it can meet the necessary demand for alternative fuels. Eventually, international regulation by the IMO will also be required to eliminate soot emissions from shipping worldwideʺ.
The Clean Arctic Alliance projects that with the current growth in Arctic shipping, HFO use in the Arctic is likely to increase from today to mid-2024. In addition, special arrangements are still in place until July 2029, when the ban will come into full force.
While most natural sources of soot are reduced in the Arctic, shipping emissions of soot have increased globally over the past decade. In the Arctic alone, by 85% between 2015 and 2019. During this period, shipping traffic in the Arctic has increased by 25% and the total distance travelled by ships has increased by as much as 77% from 2013 to 2019.
Soot from shipping is particularly harmful in the polar regions. Although shipping accounts for only two percent of soot emissions in the Arctic, it has a much greater impact on global warming than other black carbon sources, which are higher in the atmosphere and less likely to impact ice and snow.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal
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