By Nina Chestney
LONDON (Reuters) - The International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to force energy efficiency design standards on new ships from 2013 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but developing countries will probably delay implementation until 2017 or 2019, delegates said.
Forty-eight countries voted in favor of adopting a mandatory energy efficiency design index (EEDI) for new ships at a meeting of the IMO's marine environment protection committee in London on Friday, while five were against and 12 abstained, a source told Reuters.
Shipping accounts for around 3.3 percent of the world's man-made carbon dioxide emissions. According to an IMO study, shipping emissions could grow by 150 to 250 percent by 2050 if regulation is not in place.
The EEDI will force new ships to meet a minimum level of energy efficiency. Ships built between 2015 and 2019 will need to improve their efficiency by 10 percent, rising to 20 percent between 2020 and 2024 and 30 percent for ships delivered after 2024.
However, a group of countries led by China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and South Africa secured a waiver for new ships registered in developing nations, according to delegates.
The rift between developed and developing countries resembles differences over emissions cuts in failed U.N. climate talks.
If countries choose to apply the waiver for a newly delivered ship, implementation of the index will be delayed from between four and six and a half years from 2013, depending on the nature of the ship's contract.
"Adopting the EEDI is the right step but the long delay weakens its short to medium term impact significantly. If the IMO does not deliver action quickly now on existing ships, it will be up to the EU to take the lead at a regional level," said Bill Hemmings, director of Brussels-based non-governmental organization Transport & Environment.
A waiver for some countries could mean that EU shipbuilders, for example, could build and flag a ship in a developing country without having to comply with the new regulation for some time.
The meeting did not tackle market-based mechanisms to control emissions, delegates said.
The EU Commission has threatened to take its own market-based measures, such as including the shipping sector in its emissions trading scheme, if a solution to control rising shipping emissions is not strong enough.
(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Anthony Barker)