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Breaking Stories

Sabin White Paper

When IMO negotiations break down, where do we turn to for guidance?  In adopting the Initial Strategy on GHG emissions reduction in 2018, all IMO member states committed themselves to be guided in their decision-making by an agreed set of Guiding Principles.  This new Columbia Law School White Paper examines these Principles as they stand at international law.

Achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels requires urgent and serious steps to reduce greenhouse gas. Shipping currently makes up nearly 3% of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) released worldwide, and those emissions are on track to increase. But the transnational nature of the industry makes it difficult for any state to address the issue alone, and little has been done at the international level to either force or incentivize shipping companies to decarbonize.

In a new white paper, published online, the Sabin Center examines nine principles of international law that establish and frame the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) authority to adopt a market-based mechanism to reduce shipping emissions. The polluter pays principle provides strong support to adopt such a measure, which could require whoever causes emissions to cover the costs those emissions impose on others. And other principles of international law will work to ensure that any measure is sensitive the different contributions parties have made to climate change, views any uncertainties through the lens of the precautionary principle, and respects fundamental rights of all.

Prior Sabin Center white papers have explored The Legal Bases For IMO Climate Measures and the Authority of Pacific Island States to Regulate Greenhouse Gases from the International Shipping Sector. For more information about the Sabin Center’s publications visit our searchable library here.


RMI and Solomon Islands, with support from Pacific high ambition delegations, is pressing IMO to agree to adopt zero by 2050 targets in its Revised GHG Emission Reduction Strategy in 2023. We have also submitted a high ambition proposal for a universal, mandatory GHG levy on all international shipping with an entry price of $100 ton/CO2-e. It is imperative for 1.5 degrees that these are brought to the forefront of IMO negotiations now.

Ambassador Ishoda will convene a series of e-bwebwenato for high ambition folk to talk through these issues and discuss how we can aim for the highest possible ambition at IMO throughout 2021.

Framing Presentation to e-bwebwenato #1 20 May 2021   Framing Presentation to e-bwebwenato #2 13 June 2021

28 July, 2021

Third e-Bwebwenato (e-Talanoa) Session for Framing Ambition for MEPC77. Theme: Coral and Ice

This session addressed the dying of coral reefs in the ocean and presence of black carbon in the Arctic and was hosted by Ambassador Albon Ishoda of the Marshall Islands Embassy in Suva, Fiji. The session was designed to talanoa about the survival of coral reefs and emission reduction of black carbon at the IMO.  The Coral theme was introduced (click here for presentation) together with video played on "Rise: From One Island To Another" by two indigenous poets - one from the Marshall Islands (Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner) and another from Greenland (Aka Niviâna) - meet at the source of our rising seas to share a moment of solidarity. The Ice theme was presented by ICC (click here for presentation) and CAA.

9th September, 2021

The theme for the 4th e-Bwebwebnato Session is the Decarbonizing Shipping: Final Ambition and Equity (click here for Presentation).  Read more at Equity and equitable transition: In a world of Shipping decarbonisation (

13th October, 2021

The theme for the 5th e-Bwebwebnato is Decarbonizing Shipping: Mid Term Measures. (Click here for Presentation).  

16th November, 2021

The theme for the 6th e-Bwebwenato is Decarbonizing Shipping: Mid Term Measures "Working Together for an Equitable Transition to 1.5" (Click here for Presentation)

24th February, 2022

The theme for the 7th e-Bwebwenato is Decarbonizing Shipping: Equity and Disproportionate Negative Impact (Click here for Presentation)

7th Bwebwenato ppt Equity and Disproportionate Negative Impact

5th May, 2022

The theme for the 8th e-Bwebwenato is Enabling Equitable Transition

  1. 8th e-Bwebwenato - Enabling Equitable Transition [Pacific Presentation] - (Click here for Presentation)
  2. 8th e-Bwebwenato - Enabling Equitable Transition [World Bank Presentation] - (Click here for Presentation)
8th e-Bwebwenato - Enabling Equitable Transition [Pacific Presentation]   8th e-Bwebwenato - Enabling Equitable Transition [World Bank Presentation]

Cabotage Restriction Rules and the Shipping of Disaster Relief Aid - Navigating the Climate Change Induced Risk for Security in the Pacific.  Presentation by Pierre-Jean Bordahandy. 10-12th May, 2021. (20 min)