COP26 Calls for Zero Emission Shipping by 2050 and Methane Reductions

Zerom emission shipping and methane slip reduction
World leaders signed the Zero Emission Shipping by 250 declaration (Danish Prime Minister's Office)

Published Nov 2, 2021 4:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

As leaders from around the world gathered in Scotland at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, the role of the shipping industry, as expected, has become one of the topics of discussion. The first days of the conference have taken steps to again focus on the import role of the entire maritime supply chain in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement designed to limit the increase in global temperature by limiting carbon emissions.

Led by Denmark, fourteen of the world’s nations took the first action, issuing the “Declaration on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050.” With the signatures of major shipping nations including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Norway as well as key players in the industry including Panama, the declaration focuses on immediate reductions for shipping to reach zero emissions by 2050.

“The shipping industry must be climate neutral by 2050 and contribute to the solution to the global climate crisis,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. “With this initiative, Denmark and the signatory countries are sending a clear signal to our partners in the public and private sectors around the world that a greener future for shipping is both necessary but also possible.”  




Saying that they recognize that climate change is a global crisis that demands efforts from all parts of the international shipping sector, the 14 countries are committing to strengthening global efforts to achieve zero emissions from international shipping. They are calling for significant reductions in the 2020s to reach zero emissions by 2050.

They say that it will be important to have international collaboration and investment to produce zero-emission fuels as well as creating green shipping corridors and infrastructure. Their goal is to create significant momentum in the shipping industry by 2030 to “serve as a tipping point toward full decarbonization for the sector.”

The declaration recognizes the efforts by the shipping industry highlighting the Call to Action signed by more than 200 companies and organizations, developed by the Getting to Zero Coalition, a partnership between the Global Maritime Forum, the World Economic Forum, and Friends of Ocean Action and submitted to the conference last week. They also cited the Zero-Emission Shipping Mission which is demonstrating the viability of zero-emission fuels.

The nations pledged to work at the IMO to pursue the goal of zero-emission shipping by 2050. They will seek the adoption of more specific goals for 2030 and 2040 that define the pathway to full decarbonization.

In addition, while not specifically aimed at the shipping industry as much as the oil and gas sector, the leaders today are tackling the issue of methane emissions. It was announced that more than 90 nations signed a global pledge to achieve a 30 percent reduction in methane emissions by 2030. The United States and European Union lead the sweeping initiative. In announcing the program. President Joe Biden said that the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency will expand and strengthen regulations to detect and repair leaks in the oil and gas industry as well as a program to work with farmers to reduce methane emissions through smart agricultural practices. 

Methane slip continues to be one of the hotly debated issues over the shipping industry’s increasing move to liquified natural gas. Critics, including the World Bank, cited the methane issue saying that the shipping industry should not be pursuing LNG but instead cleaner fuels including hydrogen and ammonia. LNG proponents, including trade group SEA-LNG, cite significant progress in reducing the emissions, and last week Japan announced a new research program to reduce methane emissions from LNG-fueled ships by 70 percent over the next six years.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim welcomed the focus on shipping and the progress at COP26. The success at COP26 he said would empower the IMO to pursue its initiatives for the shipping industry.