Shipping industry urges global governments to back 'net zero by 2050' bid

International Chamber of Shipping wants to expedite transition to zero-carbon fuels

The global shipping industry urged global governments to back a $5 billion research and development fund to develop zero-carbon technologies on Tuesday and called for a carbon levy for the sector as it looks to expedite the transition to more expensive zero-carbon fuels.

The International Chamber of Shipping is pushing governments to double the International Maritime Organisation’s ambition to reduce emissions from the sector by 50 per cent by 2050.

The trade body, which represents 80 per cent of the global shipping industry, has submitted plans to the industry’s UN regulator outlining the urgent measures needed to help the industry achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Talk is cheap, and action is difficult. So, our net zero offering sets out the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ for decarbonising shipping by 2050. We’re saying to governments that if they really want to reach net zero, they need to move from empty commitments to tangible action,” said Esben Poulsson, chairman of ICS.

“A net-zero carbon ambition is achievable by 2050. But only provided governments take the unglamorous but urgent decisions needed to manage this process within a global regulatory framework.”

While international regulations require the global shipping industry to cut its emissions by 50 per cent compared with 2008 levels, the ICS wants the IMO to double this target and commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

Last month, Britain, the host of this year’s Cop26 environment summit, backed the demand with transport secretary Grant Shapps, saying “taking action now” will help Britain “lead the charge on this global shift” to clean shipping.

However, the ICS criticised the UK government for not publicly supporting its $5bn research and development fund, which aims to get ocean-going zero-emission ships in the water by 2030 and help the sector achieve net zero by 2050.

In its submission to the IMO, ICS said the shipping industry accepts the vital need to accelerate decarbonisation timelines, but it stated that a net zero target by 2050 will only be plausible if governments take the necessary actions to achieve this.

“The adoption by IMO of a net zero target will send the very strong signal sought by the industry, as well as energy providers, shipbuilders and engine manufacturers, so that investments in green fuels and technology can be accelerated and scaled.” ICS said.

Given the typical 25-year life of new ocean-going ships, thousands of zero-emission ships will need to be in the water by 2030 to ensure ambitions can be met.

The IMO must accelerate an increase in technology readiness levels, the ICS said, with a key step towards this is governments approving the $5bn IMO Maritime Research Fund (IMRF) at a critical IMO meeting in November, two weeks after Cop26.

The IMRF proposal will provide guaranteed levels of funding to accelerate the development of zero emission ships, without requiring governments to use taxpayers’ money because it will be funded by mandatory R&D contributions from shipowners globally.

The ICS has also called for a a broader carbon levy applicable to shipping, set to be considered by IMO members at a meeting this month, to close the price gap between zero-carbon and conventional fuels.

The ICS proposal also includes plans for intellectual property sharing among industry innovators in zero carbon technologies to further accelerate the pace of change in the sector.

Updated: October 7th 2021, 11:53 AM