Kenya is a party to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships.
The convention addresses various pollution sources in the marine environment from ships in six dedicated annexes, with the sixth one focusing on air pollution.
Internationally, air pollution lacks a single comprehensive Convention to govern it. However, one of the critical aspects of air pollutants is greenhouse gases, the focus of climate change negotiations.
The recent conference in Egypt underscored the urgency of responses required to the climate crisis. These are being undertaken in the implementation of the Paris Accord on Climate Change.
Interestingly, though, although the shipping industry accounts for three percent of global greenhouse emissions, it is not regulated by the Paris Accord.
Instead, it is dealt with within the purview of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) due to the complexity of the industry.
There are ongoing negotiations within the IMO to develop and agree on new levels of ambition and pave the way for new types of global maritime climate regulation.
This is due to the recognition that the current agreement reached in 2018 is not ambitious enough and aligned with the current commitments and targets under the Paris Accord.
As these negotiations take place, Kenya should reflect and position itself in the discourse.
Firstly, it is important that the government creates awareness on the issues under consideration and involve key stakeholders in the process of developing a position for regulating air pollution from the shipping industry.
Currently, there is very little awareness outside official circles about whether such negotiations are taking place and Kenya’s strategy.
This mirrors the situation that was obtained in the country over a decade ago in the negotiations on climate change generally.
However, as time now shows, expanding the discussions to Kenyan stakeholders improves the quality of the country’s position and also national action.
Kenya will have to balance between economic development as a result of the contribution from international shipping trade and environmental impacts due to air pollution from shipping as it navigates negotiations for the strategy for regulating greenhouse emissions from the shipping industry.
One of the main points of contention is the real contribution of Kenya and other developing countries and thus the responsibility they should bear.
The doctrine of common but differentiated responsibility long accepted in international environmental circles is subject to heated discussions and one the country must take a position.
As these negotiations take place it is necessary that the country also enhances its enforcement capacity to ensure that whatever obligations ships have are met.
Secondly, we have to link the regulation of international ships with other domestic efforts since the pollution will have local effects if not effectively regulated.