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IMO Adopts Voluntary Measures to Reduce Black Carbon Emissions in Arctic (HNN)

December 03, 2021

Black carbon emissions from maritime shipping have a disproportionate effect on climate change and the environment in the Arctic. Now the IMO is taking first, albeit voluntary, steps to address the issue.


The International Maritime Organization (IMO) last week adopted a non-binding resolution to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic. The efforts are aimed at curtailing harmful particulate matter emanating from ships traveling through the Arctic.

The voluntary measures call on flag states to encourage vessels to switch to lighter, distillate fuels and phase out heavy fuel oils (HFO). Lighter fuels burn cleaner and thus emit less black carbon, or soot, coming out of a vessel’s smoke stack.

While reactions from environmental advocates have been positive overall, the weakening of the final resolution was universally criticized.

Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, an environmental advocacy group explained:

“While the Clean Arctic Alliance is pleased the IMO finally discussed and accepted the proposal for a black carbon resolution,[...] we are disappointed that in the effort to placate a small but vocal coterie of opposing countries, important substance was lost from the original draft resolution, leaving us with a watered down version. However, what is important is that this resolution now sends a strong message that domestic and regional action to reduce black carbon emissions from ships should proceed.”

Some countries, including Norway, have already set more stringent rules for HFO and black carbon. Last year Norway announced plans to ban the use and carriage of HFO around Svalbard, leapfrogging the IMO’s regulation.