TI: IMO’s Weak Governance to Stall Climate Change Action

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By Eromosele Abiodun

Transparency International (TI) has stated that weak governance at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was delaying the shipping sector’s action on climate change.

The anti-corruption organisation in a report said the policymaking process at the United Nations (UN) body is impacted by the private shipping companies’ concerns, undermining its ability to effectively regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from maritime trade.

Some of the findings of the report indicate that journalists are unable to report freely on IMO meetings and that non-profit organisations with a consultative membership in the UN body can face expulsion if they criticise the agency or report on country views.

Furthermore, TI said countries like Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas, many of which are known as tax havens for ships, contribute 43.5 per cent of the total funding from the IMO’s 170 member states.

The majority of the world’s commercial fleet (52 percent) is registered in the said five states. TI believes that these countries potentially have exaggerated weight in the IMO policymaking processes, particularly when no mechanism exists to protect against undue influence.

The report, which will be published in full in May 2018, further said that company employees have dominated some IMO delegations as governments are able to appoint employees of corporations, including shipping companies, to their delegations.

These private-sector delegates, it added, can determine their government’s position on IMO policy and are neither subject to conflict of interest rules nor to a code of conduct.

The report, however, noted that even in the absence of a comprehensive access to information policy, transparency about the IMO’s administration is high, and that information about the remit, powers and rules of procedure of its assembly, council and committees is easily accessible.

“The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997,” said Brice Böhmer, Coordinator of the Climate Governance Integrity Programme at Transparency International.

“However, it took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy, due in 2018, and a revised strategy, due only in 2023. A well-functioning organisation’s governance structure should enable decisive action, but the governance flaws identified by our research suggest that this is not happening at the IMO because policy-making could be overly controlled by private companies, ”he said.

TI urged the IMO to establish a stronger governance framework by reforming its structure.