This evening Ocean Rebellion lit up the ship sculpture outside the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) with recent words from António Guterres’ (UN Secretary-General) IPCC speech: “The world's biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.” The oil slick below the ship, poured by the two Fossil Fool Oil Industry heads standing nearby, is a testament to the continued ignorance of the IMO, itself a UN body, which still allows the burning of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), even in the Arctic region.
The IMO continues to ignore its duty to govern shipping emissions. By allowing ships to burn HFO the IMO is significantly increasing shipping’s contribution to CO2 emissions rather than reducing them in line with the Paris Agreement. Furthermore black carbon from burnt HFO falls as soot and makes the ice caps absorb more heat and melt, further accelerating the terrifying feedback loops of planetary heating which threaten all our lives.
Black carbon is especially dangerous when emitted by ships in the Arctic. The IMO has been discussing rules for black carbon for more than a decade and the best they have to show for it is a commitment for a voluntary switch to cleaner fuels. The shipping industry has shown themselves incapable of self-regulation and are putting countless lives at risk. The time is now for a binding rule to tackle this potent source of climate heating.
The IMO must stop this stupidity now – voluntary switching has never worked, when has any industry ever volunteered any meaningful commitment to the environment? The IMO must act to end HFO use now – not just in the Arctic but everywhere – if it is illegal to burn a fuel type on land then it should be illegal to burn it at sea. After all, it eventually ends up in the same place – our lungs.
The UN talks a great talk. The International Maritime Organisation and International Seabed Authority, are both UN bodies. But both are the puppets of rich nations. Both are totally corrupted by industry and both govern the Ocean on behalf of keeping the money where it currently sits. It's not the UNs' fault, it just doesn't have any real power.
Recently the latest round of negotiations for a new High Seas Treaty ended without agreement. This means ten years of negotiations have failed to produce results. The world’s largest ecosystem, covering over two-fifths of the earth’s surface, is still unprotected.
In the meantime, the genetic resources of the High Seas are being exploited by wealthy corporations based in just a few countries. Subsidised fishing from a handful of countries is looting its fragile environment. Without those subsidies, harmful activities including deep sea bottom trawling would simply not occur. Underneath the High Seas, meanwhile, the prospect of unnecessary and destructive deep sea mining is creeping closer.
The age of colonial adventure has left us with a commitment to the ‘freedom of the sea,’ a principle that still licences unrestrained pillage of the fragile marine environment. The longer we wait for a new Treaty, the more damage is done. As Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, has pointed out, “We can’t have 95% of our global commons left as gangland without the rule of law”. But wait we must, as countries lobby to water down environmental protections in a new Treaty, and to exclude fishing activities from any regulation at all.
Ocean Rebellion demands: The UN must form a new, transparent, and representative body to govern the Ocean for the benefit of ALL life. This new body must have the restoration and replenishment of the Ocean as its only measure of success. It should replace corporate power with people power. And it should represent the many forms of marine life who actually make the ocean a home.