The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) weak performances on accountability, transparency and integrity could put the agency’s climate goals at risk, a report by international non-governmental organisation Transparency International has revealed.

Published ahead of the IMO’s council meeting, which is set to take place today, the study claims that a failure to meet international standards for transparency and accountability would hinder the organisation’s environmental and climate targets, as well as its aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050.

The shipping industry is currently responsible for emitting an estimated 938 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 19 million tonnes of nitrous oxides and 10 million tonnes of sulphur oxides annually, accounting for about 2.5% of total global emissions. Transparency International expects shipping emissions to increase by approximately 17% by 2050, despite the Paris Agreement’s calls for zero emissions by 2050, in a bid to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report warns that in its current set-up, the IMO could fail to deliver its targets, due to specific flaws in the organisation’s governance structure.

Transparency International highlights the disproportionate influence of private industry over the IMO, as well as an imbalance of Member State involvement in the policymaking process. The agency is also struggling to deal with the rise in privately-operated registries in countries that serve as tax havens, as well as with a lack of delegate accountability.

Transparency International vice chair Rueben Lifuka said: “In order for the IMO to meet its ambitious goals to reduce shipping emissions, several things need to change. Our biggest recommendation is to transform the IMO’s accountability policies, which are currently hindering policymaking and leaving the agency susceptible to private influence. While the IMO’s initial strategy adopted in April is a big step forward for the international shipping sector, more must be done to ensure the agency meets its targets.”

The organisation recommends the IMO should cooperate with its stakeholders to find ways to improve transparency and ensure its decision-making processes are carried out in the public interest. The agency should also guarantee that those who engage in these processes are subject to stronger integrity rules and measures.

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Within this framework, the UN’s shipping agency should also remove current restrictions on media coverage of IMO meetings and speakers, as well as develop new rules for the appointment of Member State delegations and third-party representatives.

The organisation should expand the mandate of the International Oversight and Ethics Office in a bid to better investigate potential breaches in the code of conduct, while its whistleblowing and complaint policies should be expanded to include Member State representatives.