Shipping port in Morocco

UK shipping industry urges sector to target net-zero carbon by 2050

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The UK shipping industry is calling for the global shipping sector to pursue a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, doubling the pace of ambitions laid out by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The IMO is requiring companies to halve their emissions compared with 2008 by 2050. However, the UK Chamber of Shipping wants the IMO to get in line with the Paris Agreement and commit to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. This target has been widely adopted, although some governments and hard-to-abate sectors (such as aviation) have declined to commit to it thus far.

“We want to be at the forefront of the green agenda and now it is time to call for radical action,” said Bob Sanguinetti, Chamber CEO. “The aim of cutting shipping emissions by 50 per cent just doesn’t go far enough. We need to show the world we mean business and it is imperative that the IMO commits to a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

“The shipping industry is one of the cleanest ways of moving goods around the world, but we know we need to do more to cut our emissions. We can’t kick the can down the road anymore. We need real action at the international level.”

The shipping industry, which moves approximately 90 per cent of world trade, currently contributes 2.4 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

In a policy document, the UK Chamber of Shipping acknowledges that net-zero by 2050 is the most ambitious task ever set for the industry, and requires “concrete action” by all stakeholders starting now. So far, no alternative net-zero carbon fuel has been identified that can compete with fossil fuels at scale and with cost-effectiveness. It calls for the IMO to develop and bring into force a global market-based measure to effectively cost the impact of existing fuels on the environment, encouraging decarbonisation. Until then, it says the industry needs a mix of energy efficiency policy measures, which can be retired once the market-based measure has been established.

It also calls for greater technological innovation - such as on electric boats - criticising a lack of R&D action by the IMO, despite having identified it as a critical element in meeting climate targets. It suggests that in the long term, R&D funding could be provided from market-based measured revenue.

Among other changes outlined in the document, the UK Chamber of Shipping said that IMO member states must accelerate work to update infrastructure of ports and fuel supply chains to enable safe refuelling and recharging of zero-emission ships. A 2020 study estimated that just 13 per cent of investment needed to allow shipping to reach net-zero carbon will be spent on the ships themselves; the rest should be put towards low-carbon infrastructure on land, such as infrastructure to enable the use of alternative fuels by ships.

UK Chamber of Shipping president John Denholm commented: “Climate change is the greatest threat to mankind and it is imperative all of us involved in the shipping industry continue to do all we can to cut emissions. That is why we are now calling on the IMO to set a net-zero target for 2050. The world needs to know the shipping sector takes its responsibilities seriously and by setting the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, people would be in no doubt about the green credentials of the shipping industry.”

The call for the net-zero 2050 target was welcomed by the transport secretary Grant Shapps. This week marks London International Shipping Week, which the government promises to be the greenest yet.

Shapps said: “I’m incredibly excited by the changes happening in this sector, with the speed of progress highlighted by the prospect of zero-emission commercial vessels in UK waters in the next few years and green Channel crossings within a decade. Taking action now allows us to lead the charge on this global shift, creating highly skilled jobs for British workers and shaping the landscape for what clean shipping and trade will look like for future generations.”

In March, the government launched a £20m competition designed to lower carbon emissions from the global shipping industry. The fund will be used to support the development of prototype vessels and port infrastructure that could be rolled out widely.

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