UOW researcher keeping world's fleets honest

MERCURY SERIES - Summer Study

When University of Wollongong's Yubing Shi started his PhD three years ago he wanted to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

But only five months later, the International Maritime Organisation stole his thunder.

The IMO introduced partial regulation to the industry and Mr Shi was left to ponder his entire thesis.

"I was going to fix this issue," he said.

"I thought, oh what should I do?"

Instead of binning his ideas completely, the Chinese international student decided to propose further improvement to the regulation, which had its flaws, he said.

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Mr Shi estimates that international shipping accounts for more than 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, significantly contributing to climate change.

"If no aggressive regulatory policies are introduced, carbon dioxide emissions from international shipping may grow by 150 to 250 per cent by 2050, compared with 2007, due to projected growth in demand for maritime transport services," Mr Shi wrote in an article to be published in The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law.

The greatest difficulty for policy makers was bridging the different interests of developing and developed countries, he said.

The IMO's regulation was adopted by a majority vote, but five countries - Brazil, Chile, China, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia - voted against the regulation.

"Since it was not adopted by consensus, it imposes challenges for future implementation of these measures," he said.

Developing countries refused to accept measures such as global levies and emissions trading schemes, arguing they were unaffordable and the largest share of greenhouse gases were emitted from developed countries.

Meanwhile, developed countries did not want to be at a competitive disadvantage if measures were not adopted universally.

Regulation should be uniform across countries, he said.

"Any measure should ensure developing countries will not suffer from economic loss," he said.

Mr Shi said his approach would apply regulation equally to all ships from different countries, but less developed countries' interests would be ensured by allocating revenue generated from a global scheme to developing countries.

The financial assistance would compensate developing countries for the financial impact of the scheme, they would also be provided with technological assistance and a grace period in reaching targets.

"That means developed countries can be committed to reduction now, but will give developing countries a 10 or five years' grace period," he said.

"It complies with international law and it's feasible.

"If we develop the regulation well, it's possible both developed and developing countries will be happy."

The PhD student has yet to finalise his proposal, but aims to submit his thesis in April or May.

The researching and writing process was painful at times, especially as Mr Shi missed his family in Beijing, but he was passionate about the issue, he said.

"It's very complicated and it requires discipline," he said.

The student chose to study at the University of Wollongong because he received a scholarship for the PhD.

While completing his studies, Mr Shi spoke at a conference on climate change in London last year.

Prior to his PhD, Mr Shi completed an undergraduate and masters degree in China in international and environmental law.

Summer Study is a Mercury series on cutting-edge PhD projects at the UOW.

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