UN Sustainable Development Goals

In June 2017, the United Nations General Assembly will be holding a major conference in New York on the sustainability of the oceans and how the UN can best implement its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14) concerning the protection of the oceans which was adopted at the UN Summit of world leaders held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. 

ICS will make the case that the shipping industry is undoubtedly a driver of ‘green growth’ given its impressive environmental performance. The UN Conference will provide an opportunity to present the progress which the shipping industry is making to play its part in reducing environmental impacts on the oceans, especially with regard to CO2, sulphur emissions and ballast water management. However, the UN Summit in Rio agreed that there are three pillars to sustainability including the economic and social as well as the environmental. 

ICS believes that government regulators should give equal priority to each of the three pillars of sustainable development, including the economic. This is especially important in view of shipping’s role in the continuing spread of global prosperity and the movement of about 90% of trade in goods, energy and raw materials. 

The vital need to protect the environment and for ships to comply fully with all new environmental regulations is fully recognised by ICS. But unless the industry is commercially viable it will not be able to deliver the investments in environmental and social improvements that are sought by regulators on behalf of society at large.

The debate at the UN level about sustainability is also relevant to the IMO ‘better regulation’ agenda which, at the request of the industry, is now being taken forward by the IMO Council. Following the Rio Summit, it is hoped that IMO’s new focus on sustainable development will mean that all proposals for any future IMO environmental regulation will be shown to meet existing IMO criteria for ‘compelling need’ and be subjected to a full and proper cost benefit and impact analysis, in a similar manner to proposals relating to the improvement of maritime safety.

ICS believes that the conduct by IMO of full and proper cost benefit analysis of all new regulatory proposals will ensure the delivery of sustainable development, consistent with the goals agreed by the United Nations, including the best means of ensuring optimal environmental protection. 

While shipping’s regulators have a responsibility to protect the environment and the interests of wider society, they also need to be practical and have an understanding of the impact that their actions can have on the industry’s own long term sustainability, especially if the ‘compelling need’ for potentially expensive proposals has not been properly demonstrated.

The international shipping industry, as represented by ICS, is committed to the delivery of further environmental and social improvements in the interests of sustainable development. But sustainable development requires a shipping industry that is economically sustainable too.

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