15 April 2016
Last December the world united behind the clear goal to ensure that global increase in temperatures did not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. The UN Paris Treaty even made reference to an ambitious aim of keeping temperature rises to below 1.5oC.
Given the scale and urgency of the challenge and the level of commitment shown in Paris any ship built today must, within its lifetime, be able to operate in a net zero emission world.
The global shipping industry, represented at the UN by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), was excluded from the Paris Agreement but is under increasing pressure to set a ‘fair share’ carbon target. Under current policy, shipping’s CO2 emissions are expected to rise by 50-250% by 2050. Paris gives us a target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by then. That gives little more than a ship’s economic working lifetime, around 30 years, to turn things around.
There is simply no room for the sector’s currently expected 1.2-2.8 gigatonnes of carbon emissions in the fast approaching zero emission world.
At an IMO meeting in May 2015 the Marshall Islands called for the establishment of a GHG emission reduction target for international shipping, consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5°C.The paper was supported by 25 countries but the decision was postponed pending the COP21 outcome.
The upcoming IMO meeting from 18-22 April 2016 offers governments a genuine opportunity to accelerate carbon reduction action within the shipping sector in line with the rest of the world’s commitment to urgent reduction of GHG emissions. However, with many other items on the agenda, a serious discussion of this critical issue is not guaranteed.
The shipping sector urgently needs strong, clear leadership from the IMO to be able to deliver low carbon ships that can serve the world in line with the Paris Agreement.
In shipping’s favour is the plethora of low carbon technology solutions readily available for deployment. There is a significant fuel and emission saving opportunity available from installing wind technology devices on commercial ships.
There are a wealth of available solutions, either currently being tested on ships, or in late stage development, that use 21st century technology to harness wind as a viable propulsion for shipping. The shipping industry is behind the curve in embracing opportunities from renewable energy. There is a vast body of support from academia, through to engineers and classification societies that recognise wind as one of the key opportunities for the shipping sector to rapidly reduce emissions.
A clear commitment to emission reduction from the IMO at this month’s meeting will stimulate a new green-golden age of shipping where innovation in the sector attracts a new generation of recruits and brings new energy to this lifeblood of global trade.
Without clear leadership investors in new technology for the shipping industry do not have sufficient confidence to commit to these and other technically and commercially viable solutions that are the best hope for the sector achieving net zero emissions by 2050.