Flag State Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Regulatory Authority of Flags of Convenience and Franchised Registries
International shipping accounts for approximately 2-3% percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Under business as usual conditions, emissions from the sector are expected to double by 2050. The quantity of GHG emissions from shipping combined with the potential for reductions using existing technologies make the sector a strategic target for mitigation measures. In February of 2014, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law published a white paper that concluded that sovereign states have broad authority under international law to regulate GHG emissions from vessels within their registry. However, many registries are structured such that the flag state has limited connection to or exercises limited control over registered vessels. For example, many flag states franchise their registries to private corporations that manage the registration of ships. In addition, with the rise of “flags of convenience,” a number of flag states have only weak ties with ships registered under their flag. This has led to questions as to how the structure of a registry affects states’ capacity to regulate. This white paper delves further into the issue of flag state authority to regulate GHG emissions particularly with respect to franchised registries and flags of convenience. This white paper assesses how these characteristics may affect the power of states in this regard and concludes that the presence of an open or franchised registry does not affect regulatory authority. However, developing nations with limited resources may face challenges promulgating effective emissions reductions regulations.
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