Shipping bids to be ‘carbon-free’ before the end of the century

Bennett: We are actually very confident that we have already reduced C02 per tonne-km by over 20%. Credit: ICS
Bennett: We are actually very confident that we have already reduced C02 per tonne-km by over 20%. Credit: ICS

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has told a major international ocean protection conference that the shipping industry aims to become carbon-free before the end of the current century.

Simon Bennett, the ICS’s policy and external relations director was speaking on the second and final day of the latest Our Ocean conference, hosted by the European Union (EU) in Malta.

Saying that he spoke for an organisation that represented 80% of the world merchant fleet, he told participants, “Our vision is to achieve full decarbonisation during the second half of the century, once we have new fuels and propulsion systems, by which we possibly mean hydrogen or fuel cells or batteries powered by renewable energy.”

In the interim, the industry, which he said accounted for 2% of global C02 emissions, had pledged to keep its emissions below 2008 levels despite an expected increase in demand for shipping services.

He believed this could be achieved, he said, through technical and operational measures but also via the regulatory framework provided by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The sector had also committed to reducing C02 emissions per tonne of cargo carried by 50% in relation to its 2008 level by 2050.

“We are actually very confident that we have already reduced C02 per tonne-km by over 20%,” he said, “although this will only be confirmed by the next IMO Green House Gas Study in 2019”.

He added that the industry had committed to reduce total CO2 emissions by an agreed percentage by 2050 but that this percentage had still to be decided by the IMO and would need to take account of the “legitimate concerns of developing national about the potential impact on trade and sustainable development”.

“The global shipping industry has proposed that IMO should incorporate these objectives into its Green House Gas reduction strategy, which IMO Member States will be discussing at a special meeting in London at the end of this month, prior to the adoption of an IMO strategy for shipping in 2018.”

The EU said that more than EUR6 billion (USD7 billion) had been pledged at the conference to fund better ocean environmental and security management. Pledges had come from governments, business and a variety of other public and private sector bodies in 121 different countries.

The EU itself announced plans to spend EUR550 million to make oceans cleaner and safer via 36 initiatives in such fields as maritime security, pollution, the “blue” economy, and fisheries.

The Malta conference is the latest in a series of Our Ocean conferences held over the last three years. Conferences were held in the United States in 2014 and 2016 and in Chile in 2015.

The initiative for the conferences came from the Obama administration in the United States. US politician John Kerry, who was Secretary of State at the time and was among the speakers in Malta, is considered the “father” of the initiative.

An EU official told IHS Markit that billions of euros had already been pledged for the improvement of the ocean environment and security but that financial commitments given at this year’s conference had far exceeded those of previous conferences.