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Green groups stage Arctic protest at IMO pollution talks

Environment groups calling for a ban on ships carrying heavy fuel oil through the Arctic have staged a demonstration outside the International Maritime Organization, whose pollution subcommittee meets from today

The subcommittee will discuss black carbon and updating the 2015 guidelines on scrubber water discharge during the week

GREEN activist groups have taken to the streets outside the International Maritime Organization to protest the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic today as the IMO’s pollution subcommittee meets to discuss the issue.

Campaigners from activist groups Extinction Rebellion and Ecohustler carried banners outside the IMO’s London headquarters. They called on shippers to switch to cleaner distillate fuels to prevent damage to ecosystems.

Eleven countries including Denmark, Finland, Norway and the US have proposed an HFO ban on all shipping in Arctic waters except for search and rescue vessels.

But those countries also want a five-year delay on some ships, which the environment groups oppose.

Ecohustler spokesman Matt Mellen said to allow the use of the “dirty, dangerous fuels” in the Arctic “beggars belief”.

“The Arctic is changing faster than anywhere due to climate change,” he said. “If world governments are serious about protecting this fragile environment, it can bring about a ban during this week’s meeting.”

The pollution subcommittee is a technical body meant to hash out the detail of new rules and regulations, which are then decided on by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee.

The Clean Arctic Alliance, a group of 18 non-governmental organisations including Greenpeace and the WWF, supports an Arctic HFO ban, but said it was not involved in the protests today.

In a statement, CAA lead adviser Sian Prior said any delays to a ban would “prolong the threat of a HFO spill in the Arctic, putting communities, livelihoods and wildlife at risk”.

“The views of indigenous groups and individuals must be taken into special consideration while developing the ban,” Dr Prior added.

The subcommittee will this week consider reducing shipping’s emissions of black carbon.

It will also discuss assessing and harmonising rules and guidance on discharge of liquid effluents from exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) into waters.

Environment groups have submitted concerns that open-loop scrubbers discharge pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which they say are linked to various cancers. They say more risk assessments should be carried out before scrubbers can be used.

The Guardian reported today that an internal IMO document said there was insufficient “toxicity data” to assess the risk to humans from increased scrubber use, criticising the existing body of research.

Outside the IMO this morning, demonstrators staged a “climate crime scene” with white chalk outlines of polar bears, a smoking cargo ship art installation, and a sculpture of a bear stranded on a melting iceberg.

The subcommittee meeting continues.

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