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Shipping Industry Faces Net Zero Emissions Target, Draft Plan Reveals

Delivered in 2021 by Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the Suiso Frontier is the world's first hydrogen carrier. It's pictured here arriving at Australia's Port of Hasting's in January 2022. Photo Courtesy HySTRA/Handout via REUTERS

Shipping Industry Faces Net Zero Emissions Target, Draft Plan Reveals

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June 30, 2023

(Bloomberg) —

Shipping’s global regulator is closing in on a new target of net zero emissions by 2050, inching the industry closer to alignment with the Paris Agreement on climate.

The plan — set out in a draft seen by Bloomberg News — is not yet finalized, with talks at the London-based International Maritime Organization continuing into next week. If adopted, the mid-century target, which would be non-binding, could align the industry with the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Shipping carries more than 80% of world trade and is responsible for about 3% of human-made carbon dioxide emissions. While the IMO is working on new targets, it almost certainly won’t finalize any major new rules — like a charge on carbon — at these talks.

This week’s discussions precede next week’s meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, or MEPC, where a final decision on the new targets will likely be made. The draft text seen by Bloomberg, dated June 30, is subject to approval and amendment.

“The draft doesn’t go far enough. Net zero isn’t enough – it needs to be zero emissions,” said Albon Ishoda, the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ special envoy for shipping decarbonisation. “We need this sector to align with a 1.5C trajectory.”

The targets include international shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions reaching net zero by, or around, 2050. A goal of net zero by that date is needed for the industry to cut emissions at a pace that’s aligned with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global warming to 1.5C degrees above pre-industrial levels, according to a 2022 report from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping.

That said, interim targets — for 2030 and 2040, for instance — are also required, according to the nonprofit.

The draft does include “indicative checkpoints” for emissions reductions, including at least 20% in 2030 versus 2008.

A 2030 goal of a “37% emission reduction target, as envisaged by the Science Based Targets initiative, is the bare minimum that’s needed for a 1.5 degrees compatible pathway,” said Faig Abbasov, shipping program director at Transport & Environment, a non-governmental organization.

The draft also includes a 2030 target for a small amount of the energy used by international shipping to come from zero, or near-zero, GHG-emission sources.

The technical details:
Below are key parts of the draft text; language in square brackets indicates wording yet to be decided
“to reach net zero GHG emissions [by 2050 at the latest] [by or around mid-century, mindful of different national circumstances*] [by or around 2050, taking into account different national circumstances*]”
“uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources to represent [at least] 5%[, striving for 10%,] of the energy used by international shipping by 2030”
“Indicative checkpoints”“to reduce the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 20% [striving for 25%] in 2030, compared to 2008”“to reduce the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 70% [striving for 75%] by 2040, compared to 2008”

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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