- Shipping emissions, although currently responsible for only 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have the potential to skyrocket if left unaddressed, projected to reach 130% of 2008 levels by 2050.
- To combat this challenge, the maritime industry is embracing the concept of green shipping corridors, which are routes between major port hubs where zero-emission solutions are supported and demonstrated.
- One notable collaboration in this endeavour is the partnership between Los Angeles and Shanghai, two bustling port cities that handle a significant portion of global trade.
Charting a Greener Course
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), shipping emissions could grow to 130% of 2008 levels by 2050. Green shipping corridor is defined by the Global Maritime Forum as “maritime routes between major port hubs where zero-emission solutions are supported and demonstrated”. This far exceeds the target to establish six green corridors by 2025, as set out by the Clydebank Declaration, launched at COP26 in November 2021.
Ingrid Irigoyen, associate director, ocean and climate, for the energy and environment programme at the U.S.-based Aspen Institute, explains why the corridors are important.
“(Shipping) is such a diverse and massive global industry that we’re trying to transition wholesale to new sources of energy and new methods of propulsion. That is a huge undertaking for society. And even the smartest people in the world, who’ve been in this space for a really long time, find it challenging to develop global strategies that we can all move towards simultaneously.”
“Green corridors offer an opportunity for value-chain actors who are working in a specific geography to take this massive global challenge and shrink it down,” says Irigoyen. “They offer a testing ground for the technical and operational steps forward that then can help build confidence for a bigger (set) of actors who are watching those initiatives.”
Shipping’s Green Revolution: LA and Shanghai Lead the Way
One route currently being developed is Los Angeles to Shanghai. The port of Shanghai is the world’s busiest by container tonnage.“This is a very impactful area to look at reducing emissions because of the sheer volume of consumer-facing goods that arrive here,” says Alisa Kreynes, deputy director of ports and shipping for C40 Cities.
“One of the things that he really wanted to do was work with China to make sure that the west coast ports, Los Angeles specifically, are doing something meaningful with China. Because that’s where we can get the most impact in terms of emissions reductions,” says Kreynes.
The fact that the initial push for the green corridor came from the cities and ports themselves (the ports of both LA and Shanghai are run by their municipalities), means that the development process has been more clear-cut.
“We work at the city-to-city level,” says Kreynes, “which makes things a lot more efficient than working at the state or national level. So, in the case of the U.S. and China, we were able to overcome some of the geopolitical tensions and complexities that were certainly not in our favour at that time.”
Both at departure and arrival, greenhouse gases (GHGs) and pollutants rise at port level. “Most green corridors look at just the ship itself,” says Kreynes. “(But) ports are major sources of air pollutants.”
LA and Shanghai Collaborate on Emission Cuts
Kreynes points out that there are a lot of other craft handling cargo in ports besides cargo ships, and they are typically run on diesel, a major source of emissions. “So, being able to include those in a corridor is really important,” she adds.
According to the Global Maritime Forum’s Annual Progress Report on Green Shipping Corridors, to get to such a stage takes some doing, with “only a handful (having) advanced far enough to begin feasibility assessments or implementation planning,
Jesse Fahnestock, project director, decarbonisation, at the Global Maritime Forum says “Very large investments into green and in some cases blue hydrogen production, have begun to produce some confidence that there’s going to be the capacity to make these fuels, But I see progress being made and growing confidence that, from the producer side, there will be large volumes in line with what would be needed to get shipping on a proper decarbonisation pathway.”
LA and Shanghai Ports Team Up for Greener Shipping
Johan Byskov Svendsen, programme manager at the Copenhagen-based Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, says that policy support channelled through, for example, the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. or the EU in Europe, can only go so far. If projects are too reliant on subsidies and those funds dry up, the projects themselves might similarly wither away.
Svendsen says the tax would need to be high, and also applied globally. “If we know what CO2 taxation will be on the maritime industry in say 2028, 2030 and all the way to 2040 … that would allow those first-moving countries and companies to say ‘okay … we will pay a bit more in the early days, because we know that it will be costly with our fossil-based fuel as soon as the CO2 taxation is implemented’.”
As a start, under new proposed provisions to bring shipping within the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), ships travelling within the EU will be required to pay for 40% of their emissions from 2025, rising to 100% by 2027. The IMO is targeting only a 50% reduction in global shipping emissions by 2050.
“Green shipping corridors are a very important decarbonisation tool because they allow us to bring these collaborative structures together – create these ecosystems where shipping companies, cargo owners, ports, governments, fuel producers, can all work together to create environments where new technologies and approaches can be risk shared across the group.” argues Kreynes
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