Zero emissions shipping will be a commercial reality by the end of next decade, according to a pledge made by shipping giants on Monday.
The announcement came hours before the UN climate action summit convened by António Guterres got under way in New York.
Senior figures from the maritime, infrastructure, energy and finance sector, including shipping behemoth Maersk and oil company Shell, joined the so-called Getting to Zero Coalition.
They will seek to coordinate the launch of clean fuels and vessels while making sure that these are supported by adequate ports, finance and policy incentives.
“Energy efficiency has been an important tool which has helped us reduce CO2 emissions per container with 41% over the last decade and position ourselves as a leader 10% ahead of the industry average,” Søren Skou, CEO of the world’s largest container ship operator Maersk, said
“However, efficiency measures can only keep shipping emissions stable, not eliminate them. To take the next big step change towards decarbonization of shipping, a shift in propulsion technologies or a shift to clean fuels is required which implies close collaboration from all parties. The coalition launched today is a crucial vehicle to make this collaboration happen.”
“The challenge around commercially viable zero emission vessels is not (primarily) a technological challenge,” spokesperson for the Global Maritime Forum, Torben Vollemund, wrote in an e-mail. “We can (and are) building engines that can burn zero emission fuels. We can produce zero emission fuels for instance based on biomass and hydrogen produced from renewable electricity or from natural gas combined with carbon capture and storage.”
“The challenge is a collective action challenge, since decarbonizing shipping is about a systemic transformation that is beyond the power of any single stakeholder and stakeholder group,” Vollemund said.
Vollemund also stressed the urgency to act, with ships entering the global fleet in 2030 still operating in 2050.
This “means we only have a decade to get commercially viable and scalable zero emission vessels and fuels in place – and we are not even close”.
Led by the Global Maritime Forum, Friends of the Ocean, and the World Economic Forum, the initiative seeks to make good on the UN International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) pledge to halve emissions from 2008 levels by 2050, with the view of phasing them out as soon as possible in the century.
Currently responsible for 2-3% of annual global emissions, the international shipping industry could see its emissions soar by up to 250% by 2050 in the absence of any action.