National Action Plan

TITLE> Why a National Action Plan (NAP)?

In April 2018 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted resolution MEPC.304(72) on the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships that identifies levels of ambition including to peak GHG emissions from international shipping as soon as possible and to reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 whilst pursuing efforts towards phasing them out as soon as possible in this century.[1]

The Initial IMO GHG Strategy identifies as a candidate short-term measure to “encourage the development and update of national action plans to develop policies and strategies to address GHG emissions from international shipping in accordance with guidelines to be developed by the Organization, taking into account the need to avoid regional or unilateral measures”.

In this regard, IMO resolution MEPC.327(75) adopted in 2020 encourages Member States to develop and submit voluntary National Action Plans (NAP) to address GHG emissions from ships, outlining respective policies and actions.  NAPs may be developed by Member States willing to initiate early actions at national level to facilitate the reduction of GHG emissions from ships without awaiting the entry into force of measures in the IMO context. The resolution suggests that the National Action Plans could include but are not limited to:

  1. improving domestic institutional and legislative arrangements for the effective implementation of existing IMO instruments;
  2. developing activities to further enhance the energy efficiency of ships;
  3. initiating research and advancing the uptake of alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels;
  4. accelerating port emissions reduction activities, consistent with IMO resolution MEPC.323(74), that invites Member States to promote the consideration and adoption by ports within their jurisdiction, of regulatory, technical, operational and economic actions to facilitate the reduction of GHG emissions from ships. Those could include but are not limited to the provision of:
    (a) Onshore Power Supply (preferably from renewable sources);
    (b) safe and efficient bunkering of alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels;
    (c) incentives promoting sustainable low-carbon and zero-carbon shipping; and
    (d) support for the optimization of port calls;
  5. fostering capacity-building, awareness-raising and regional cooperation; and
  6. facilitating the development of infrastructure for green shipping.

Resolution MEPC.327(75) invites Member States to submit their NAP to the IMO Secretariat and provide updates, as relevant, thereafter. A repository of submitted NAPs is available on the IMO website.[2]

The development of a NAP could mobilize a broad range of national stakeholders to get involved in ship emissions reduction efforts, including those in shipping-related sectors that may not necessarily be covered by IMO conventions, and thereby bring in new ideas, experience, capabilities and resources.

In their NAP, countries could also encourage and mobilize resources for research, development and deployment of low-emissions technologies and fuels at a national level, or from international financial partners. Through sharing research findings, best practices and lessons learned with the wider maritime community, countries could promote the global uptake of these technologies and fuels. These and other activities could facilitate the step change needed to significantly reduce ship emissions, achieve the IMO’s aims and commitments, and thereby contribute to global air pollution and GHG mitigation efforts.

In addition, a NAP could help countries realize benefits not directly associated with reducing ship emissions, such as:

  • job creation in new sectors
  • creation of new business and investment opportunities
  • decreased energy dependency
  • reduced health care costs

The NAP development and implementation process also has the potential to strengthen national institutional and technical capacity, and transfer knowledge to sectoral organizations. It can also help countries coordinate among sectors and institutions that currently work in isolation from each other, and allow decision makers to identify synergies among emissions reduction sectoral plans. Furthermore, sending a credible signal regarding future plans to reduce ship emissions can stimulate investment and international support for mitigation activities, promote technological innovation and engage the private sector.

In response to resolution MEPC.327(75) that requests the Secretariat to continue to provide guidance and any further action which may be taken (e.g. through the GloMEEP, GMN and GreenVoyage2050 projects) to assist Member States including developing countries, in particular SIDS and LDCs, for the development of National Action Plans, the GreenVoyage2050 Project has developed a NAP template, which aims to support policy makers wishing to develop a NAP. The process is outlined below.

By their very nature, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are heavily dependent on transport for access, trade and mobility. Maritime transport, in particular, is the lifeline sustaining the survival of SIDS, given their size, geography, economic structure and high dependence on maritime transport-intensive imports for much of their consumption needs.[3]  For that reason, additional guidance and recommendations dedicated to the development of a NAP for SIDS is provided here.

[1] In November 2021, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee at its 77th session (MEPC 77) agreed to initiate the revision of the Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships, recognizing the need to strengthen the ambition during the revision process. A final draft Revised IMO GHG Strategy would be considered by MEPC 80 (scheduled to meet in spring 2023), with a view to adoption.
[3] UNCTAD (2014) Closing the Distance: Partnerships for sustainable and resilient transport systems in SIDS. (accessed October 2021)