Could The Maritime Sector Achieve Net Zero Emissions?

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  • Countries around the world are set to legislate to force the polluting shipping industry to switch to cleaner fuels.
  • The European Union is currently negotiating legislation that will gradually limit the permitted emissions.
  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency that regulates shipping, said over the summer that it wants to update its climate strategy to see the sector go fossil-fuel free by 2050.

Global legislation is being prepared to compel the polluting shipping industry to transition to cleaner fuels. One of the requirements of the Green Shipping Challenge, a project started by the US and Norway during the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt, is that, as reported by West Observer.


More than 40 ports, businesses, and states have declared that they will take action. They range from encouraging fewer polluting ships to converting to low-emission or even zero-emission fuels. At Transport and Environment, a European clean transportation campaign, Faig Abbasov is in charge of sustainable maritime transport policy. He said, “We appreciate the leadership of the United States in keeping this problem high on the agenda.” But in order for the US to really consider enacting national legislation for international maritime traffic in order to develop a market for clean technologies, this problem must become a reality.

Around 80% of global trade is conducted on ships. Huge ships carrying cargo containers travel across oceans every day to bring commodities. At the same time, a billion tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere annually by these ships.

Industry’s goal

About 3% of global emissions are attributable to the shipping industry. It would rank among the top ten emitters of greenhouse gases if it were a nation.

“One of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is shipping.” Therefore, it is essential that quick and firm action be made to cut emissions from this sector and keep the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

Progress has been slow so far, despite the industry’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. According to assessments and a variety of “serious long-term economic and energy scenarios,” emissions may even rise by as much as 130% from 2008 levels.

Create a new market for green fuels

The cost is one aspect of the issue. According to Abbasov, cleaner fuels like methanol and green hydrogen are far more expensive than the severely polluting heavy fuel oil that the industry currently uses. The issue, according to Abbasov, is that all of these fuels are exorbitantly expensive. “Given how inexpensive heavy oil is, the price difference is enormous. How can you get past it, then?”

According to multinational management consulting firm McKinsey, switching to zero-emission fuels would result in a 40–60% rise in the overall cost of operating ships.

There are no environmentally friendly ships without green fuel.

To date, however, neither consumer pressure nor incentives have been put on businesses to order new ships that use pricey but ecologically benign fuels. Instead, there is the worry that the rivals would keep using inexpensive fuel. Therefore, ecologically friendly fuels aren’t initially generated in huge quantities.

Simply put, no one really cares about emissions from shipping companies, according to Abbasov. According to him, national legislation should be passed by governments to gradually stop importing fossil fuels. As a result of “an equal playing field” being established, the demand for environmentally friendly substitutes could rise and the price argument could be refuted.

Price is less important if it is regulated in this manner because everyone must adhere to the rules and costs rise for everyone at the same rate, according to Abbasov.

The allowed emissions are being steadily limited by regulations being negotiated by the European Union. A bill to lower emissions from the industry is also being considered by the US Congress.

Shipping companies are taking steps towards decarbonization

A few initiatives have already been taken by the shipping sector to improve its environmental practices. Over the summer, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations organisation that oversees shipping, declared that it wanted to alter its climate plan so that the industry will be free of fossil fuels by 2050.

In an effort to decarbonize the industry, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents 80% of all merchant ships worldwide, has joined forces with IRENA.

Spanish production of green hydrogen: Countries must lower the cost of renewable fuels so that shipping businesses will switch.

The largest shipping corporation in the world, Maersk, has placed an order for 19 ships with dual-fuel engines that burn methanol in an effort to “become carbon neutral by 2040 with new technology, new ships, and new fuels.”

Management consultants McKinsey state that the sector must develop “extensive emission reduction strategies over the next decade” due to the 20 to 25-year lifespan of ships.

The shipping firm Maersk also disclosed that it would collaborate with Spain to investigate the possibility of large-scale environmentally friendly fuel production there as part of the “Green Shipping Challenge.”

According to Abbasov, there should be enough green fuel production facilities operating by 2030 to enable more shipping companies to commission the green boats they require as they refresh their fleets.

Some businesses want to invest, but they will only do so if the conditions are favourable, he continued.


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Source: West Observer


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