Decarbonizing the shipping industry will cost more than  trillion

Decarbonizing the shipping industry will cost more than $1 trillion

Powering all shipping vessels with zero-emission fuels by 2050 would dramatically reduce industry emissions, but would require between $1 trillion and $1.4 trillion of investment.

Ambient


September 22, 2022

A top view of the front of a container ship moving through deep blue ocean water on a sunny day with dry hills in the background along the coastline.  The ship is fully loaded with colorful truck-sized cargo containers.

Switching ships from fossil fuels by 2050 requires substantial global financial investment

air movement

An investment of more than $1 trillion would be required to decarbonize the shipping industry by 2050, according to a report released September 21 at the World Maritime Forum summit in Brooklyn, New York, during New York Climate Week.

The global shipping industry is responsible for about 3 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly equivalent to Japan’s total annual emissions. Most of the industry’s emissions come from the fossil fuels burned to power the more than 100,000 large ships on the ocean, and total emissions could more than double by 2050 without efforts to decarbonize.

Improving energy efficiency could significantly reduce shipping emissions, but full decarbonization ultimately requires replacing fossil fuels entirely with zero-emission fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia produced with renewable energy and methanol, says Domagoj Baresic of University Maritime Advisory Services, a shipping consultancy in the UK.

Baresic and Katharine Palmer of Lloyd’s Register, a shipping services company in the United Kingdom, considered the progress the shipping industry has made so far, focusing on what they call a “groundbreaking” goal of using zero-emission fuel for 5 percent of international shipping. fuel and 15 percent of domestic shipping fuel by 2030.

“Although 5 percent sounds small, it implies that all the necessary conditions start to be in place” to rapidly increase zero-emissions fuel use from then on, says Baresic. Currently, almost no zero-emission fuel is used for shipping, he says.

The International Maritime Organization, the UN agency that regulates international shipping, has adopted a strategy to reduce shipping emissions by 50% by 2050. A more ambitious plan to reduce shipping emissions by 100% by 2050 has been signed by at least 14 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

“Two years ago, literally nothing was happening in the shipping space. [on decarbonisation]says Rasmus Bach Nielsen of Trafigura, a Singapore-based global commodity trading company. “I think you have to appreciate how quickly things are happening.”

However, despite the commitments, the industry is only “partially on track” towards the 2030 goals, according to the report.

“We’re at that stage now where it’s about seeing commitments turn into real-world actions,” Baresic says. “Is the money there? Are we really seeing the construction of the ships and the infrastructure?”

The report counts at least 203 green shipping pilot projects underway, but says they must now be translated into longer-term commitments, such as investments in zero-emission fuel infrastructure. Some ships could be powered by electric batteries, nuclear power or even traditional wind sails, although the report sees zero-emission fuels as the core strategy.

Twenty-two countries have also committed to creating six zero-emission shipping routes by 2025, including a route between Shanghai, China and Los Angeles. These routes could help create the initial infrastructure needed to expand green shipping.

In total, the report estimates that decarbonizing global shipping by 2050 would require between $1 trillion and $1.4 trillion of investment.

“It’s a big number,” says Baresic, but it would stem from global investments from multiple industries spread over decades.

“Now we have a common destiny,” says Palmer. “The question is how fast will we go there?”

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