By Jonathan Saul
LONDON (Reuters) - The U.N.'s maritime agency has elected Koji Sekimizu of Japan as its next Secretary-General from the beginning of next year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said on Tuesday.
Sekimizu, 58, who is currently director of the IMO's maritime safety division, will take over from Efthimios Mitropoulos on Jan 1 for an initial four-year term.
A majority of the 40-member IMO Council voted for Sekimizu, who beat rival candidates from South Korea, Cyprus, the Philippines, Spain and the United States.
"For him to succeed in the hugely demanding and heavy task ... he will need all the understanding, support and co-operation of the entire membership and the Secretariat to enable him to provide direction and steer the Organization prudently and wisely in the challenging times that lie ahead," Mitropoulos said in a statement.
Last year the IMO failed to reach agreement on proposals to cut carbon emissions from new ships due to opposition from some member states. Shipping is not covered by the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol.
The World Bank will suggest a global levy on jet and shipping fuel in recommendations to G20 governments later this year on raising climate finance.
U.N. talks are stalled on the future of Kyoto, which only caps rich country emissions. Developing countries want to extend the pact while most developed nations want to replace it.
Global shipping and aviation emissions are neither limited nor measured under Kyoto. As a result these sectors are coming under closer scrutiny and the European Union in particular is involved in an escalating spat with the global airline body.
EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas and Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard met on Tuesday with shipping and member state officials to discuss how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.
Hedegaard said the meeting was "part of the necessary engagement to move forward."
"It is high time for an agreement in the International Maritime Organization," Hedegaard said in a statement.
"Much as we prefer a global solution, the member states and the European Parliament have asked the Commission to present a possible proposal to reduce shipping emissions for 2012 in the case that the IMO fails to find a solution."
The IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee will meet in July and many participants are expected to call for the adoption of the Energy Efficient Design Index.
"The index contains technical requirements to improve the design of new ships in order to reduce both their fuel consumption and emissions," the European Commission said in the statement accompanying Hedegaard's comments.
"The adoption of the index would give a positive signal that international negotiations at IMO can deliver concrete contributions to combating climate change."
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul, editing by Keiron Henderson)