- Written by Matt McGrath and Malcolm Senior
- BBC News Climate & Science
The shipping industry is under increasing pressure to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions from stacks at a meeting in London this week.
Maritime transport emits as much carbon dioxide per year as Germany but is the largest global sector with no target to reduce emissions to “net zero”.
Some delegates at the UN summit want it by 2050 and halving emissions by 2030.
Campaigners say this would be the climate “deal of the decade” if agreed.
Reaching “net zero” means that any remaining emissions of shipping are offset by the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
For years, the shipping industry, governments and environmental groups have been arguing about how to make transporting goods by sea greener.
This issue was deemed too difficult to include in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to curb global warming.
This is important because about 90% of the products and goods that the world consumes travel by ship.
These ships often burn highly polluting fuels that contribute up to 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions, about the same amount as Germany’s or 243 coal plants.
Experts have warned that could grow by as much as 50% by mid-century if stronger action is not taken.
Current plans for the shipping industry only envisage a halving of emissions by the middle of this century, a commitment scientists say is far from the Paris climate agreement.
This week, under the auspices of the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), delegates from 175 shipping nations will meet in London to try to agree on a new timetable for completely decarbonising their industry.
Campaigners want to see a stricter target, with a reduction of about half by 2030 and a new net zero target for 2050. Others want to go further and see full decarbonisation until 2040.
“If member states get this right, they can adjust the shipping sector in line with Paris temperature targets and boost investment in green technologies that will completely transform the sector,” said Kerlin Wells, Director of Oceans and Climate, UN Climate Foundation.
Many countries are in favor – and some shipping companies also want to move forward with cleaner transport schemes. Maersk, the world’s second largest container shipping line, is taking a bullish approach, setting its own goal of zero emissions by 2040.
Previous attempts to boost climate ambition in the IMO have fallen foul of a number of countries such as China, India and Saudi Arabia, which are keen to protect their own domestic shipping interests.
Observers say that if the London meeting can agree on these new targets for all shipments, it will be the biggest advance against climate change since the Paris agreement.
“You’re really going to have a climate agreement not just for the year, but potentially for the decade,” said John Maggs, of the Clean Shipping Alliance of activists, speaking to reporters.
Within the wider industry, there is recognition that reform is needed but there are concerns that new targets will be too difficult and expensive.
but Recent research He shows that cutting freight emissions in half this decade would add only about 10% to total operations costs.
Last week, IMO Secretary-General Kitak Lim urged delegates to “make compromises and find solutions,” calling 2023 “the year of decisive climate action.”
His views were echoed by Faig-Abasov, transport and environmental activists:
“Waiting until 2050 to decarbonise is a bit like waiting for your house to burn before you call the fire brigade… What’s needed is political will; IMO needs to either step up or charge!”
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