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Call to action: Governments’ commitment vital to decarbonize shipping by 2050

The phrases “global level playing field” and “commercially viable” were mentioned several times during a launch event Wednesday that called for governments around the world to act on climate change and commit to decarbonizing the shipping sector by 2050.

The industry is seeking an equitable transition to zero emissions — and one that won’t strip it of profits.

More than 150 organizations and companies in shipping, cargo, infrastructure, ports, finance and energy signed a call to action, encouraging world leaders to align shipping with the Paris Agreement goal to keep the increase in global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is what scientists agree will prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

“The timing of this call to action couldn’t be better. More eyes than ever are fixated on the global supply chain, primarily as a result of the ongoing disruptions impacting nearly all freight movements. It’s clear that policy efforts are needed to guide the industry toward future fuels and increased efficiencies. But the scale of this effort to decarbonize shipping is massive and requires collective action,” said Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves.

The International Maritime Organization’s decarbonization goal is to reduce emissions by 50% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. The IMO is scheduled to review its emissions targets in 2023.

The signatories called for governments to:

  1. Commit to decarbonizing international shipping by 2050.

  2. Support industrial-scale zero-emission shipping projects through national action.

  3. Deliver policy measures that will make zero-emission shipping the default choice by 2030.

“Full decarbonization of international shipping is urgent and achievable,” the message endorsers sent to governments in a release said.

The signatories expressed that the shipping industry is ready to decarbonize — the technology is available and the sustainable fuels exist — but it won’t work without government intervention. Many green shipping solutions are very expensive and require economies of scale and innovation to become commercially viable.

During the event, several signatories also emphasized that this transition must be just and cannot require developing countries to pay a green premium.

“The bad news is that the market will not solve itself. If the market ought to decide, we have the answer, and that’s carbon-based fuels. As demonstrated by the many signatories in this call to action, the industry is actually ready to move. Now we need governments and regulators to move with us and deliver the right regulations with an ambitious climate,” Lasse Kristoffersen, CEO of Norwegian shipping company Torvald Klaveness and vice president of the board of directors at the International Chamber of Shipping, said during the launch event Wednesday.

Multiple speakers mentioned governments’ track record for overpromising and under-delivering, while they said private entities have under-promised and overdelivered. However, they also expressed hope for collaboration and government involvement to spur innovation among the private shipping sector.

“To achieve zero [emissions], many challenges have to be solved. We need the right technology, access to fuel and infrastructure. But perhaps even more importantly, we need clear regulation, and we need market-based measures to favor the use of zero-emission fuel. That is why we support the call for action to governments to commit to decarbonization. … This cannot be done by a single company or nation alone. We are part of a global industry, so we need global rules. Otherwise it will not work — we need a level playing field for the entire industry,” Øistein Jensen, chief sustainability officer at Odfjell SE, told FreightWaves.

Ships are responsible for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and transport nearly 80% of globally traded goods by volume, according to the release.

“If you deal with the hard-to-abate sectors first, the world will decarbonize faster,” Michael Parker, chairman of global shipping, logistics and offshore at Citigroup, said during the event.

Parker said the challenge in the coming months is to educate politicians and greatly increase the number of signatories so that “we can change the story” at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, at the beginning of November.

The Getting to Zero Coalition, the alliance that made the call to action, is a partnership of the Global Maritime Forum, Friends of Ocean Action and World Economic Forum.

“We applaud this and similar efforts by private firms and organizations to influence policymaking,” Cole said. “Maritime is clearly leading the charge across all freight sectors, followed closely by air. I do hope to see future collaborations occur within road and rail freight.”

This article originally appeared on Freight Waves

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