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In 2020 the maximum allowable sulfur limit in marine fuels will be only 0.5 %, compared to 3.5 % now. This will probably lead to pains in the industry, because the world's refineries haven't extended their hydrotreating capacity to desulfurize heavy oils to the correct degree.

There is a FAQ by the IMO to this regulation, but I could not find the real story behind this regulation.

Which countries have pressed for this? How was this tough regulation purely on ecological reasons possible? Was there any deal for the industrializing countries like China & India not to vote against it?

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This has been coming for literally decades. It started in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. This in turn led to MARPOL, which set out steps on how to decrease shipping-based pollution.

Unfortunately, seeing as it is the UN, member nations took up the solutions with the least impact on their economies first. So Annex I was implemented in 1983, putting in measures to stop accidental oil leakage from freighters. Annex II in 1987 put regulations on transportation of noxious liquids in bulk across the ocean. V was implented in 1988, dealing with littering/garbage disposal of ships. III in 1992 dealt with solid toxins. IV in 2003 dealt with where you could offload sewage. And it took until 2005 for them to agree to limits on air pollution, but they gave themselves 15 years (!) to implement them.

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    This is all relevant and interesting background information, but unfortunately it doesn't address the actual question: "Which countries have pressed for this? How was this tough regulation purely on ecological reasons possible? Was there any deal for the industrializing countries like China & India not to vote against it?" – Philipp Dec 13 '18 at 15:39
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    I'm saying that it happened more than 40 years ago, and any first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of that summit are more than likely lost to the sands of time. – Carduus Dec 13 '18 at 15:54
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    This would contradict something from the source in the question. It claims that there was a decision after 2016 to move the deadline from 2025 to 2020. I think that decision is what the question is asking about: "The agency lowered the allowable sulfur content in marine fuel to 3.5 percent in 2012, aiming to get it down to 0.5 percent between 2020 and 2025. But when a 2016 study found that not lowering the limit by 2020 would contribute to more than 570,000 additional premature deaths by 2025, the IMO tightened the deadline" – Philipp Dec 13 '18 at 16:02

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