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Latest Science

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.

This report was commissioned by Seas at Risk and Transport and Environment.  Its primary objective is to review the mitigation potential of a modest reduction in vessel speed of between 10-20% globally or regionally for a range of environmental issues and safety of navigation, with an emphasis on the potential aggregate effect. 

Download report here

Responding to the impact of climate change is high on the agenda of all Pacific island countries. Communities that live on low-lying atolls, like the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are particularly vulnerable. RMI’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is to reduce its 2010 greenhouse gas domestic transport emission levels by 16% by 2025, including efforts to reduce emissions from its shipping fleet. However, the shipping industry, an economic lifeline for the country, is lagging behind other transport sectors in modernising its fleets and improving the sustainability of its services. 

Download paper here

Infrastructure worldwide has suffered from chronic under-investment for decades and currently makes up more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. A deep transformation of existing infrastructure systems is needed for both climate and development, one that includes systemic conceptual and behavioural changes in the ways in which we manage and govern our societies and economies. This report is a joint effort by the OECD, UN Environment and the World Bank Group, supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. It focuses on how governments can move beyond the current incremental approach to climate action and more effectively align financial flows with climate and development priorities. The report explores six key transformative areas that will be critical to align financial flows with low-emission and resilient societies (planning, innovation, public budgeting, financial systems, development finance, and cities) and looks at how rapid socio-economic and technological developments, such as digitalisation, can open new pathways to low-emission, resilient futures.

Download report here