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Report: Ships Must Accelerate Decarbonization Halving Fossil Fuel Use

decarbonization research
research center calls for cutting fossil fuel use in half by 2030

Published Dec 8, 2022 5:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The maritime industry must take immediate collective action on an unprecedented scale to bring the decarbonization of the industry on track with the trajectory set for decarbonization by the Paris Agreements says the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping in its annual situation analysis. The report urges swifter and unified action to address the challenges saying that shipping must cut the fossil fuel consumption of the global fleet in half by 2030 to reach the objectives for reducing carbon emissions.

The independent, not-for-profit research and development center is the latest in a series of organizations to call for new actions as the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is due to convene its next session on Monday, December 12. In its annual assessment, the center urges companies, governments, and individuals across the globe to collectively fast-track decarbonization this decade and outlines key actions that lie ahead. The report says that recent actions across the maritime industry demonstrate that the sector has the willingness to act, but that companies, countries, and regulators must come together to act.

“Despite the progressive initiatives, much more is needed. When we compare the scale of efforts and planned actions across the sector against the necessary timeline of the transformation, it is evident that we are still not doing enough to stay on the recommended track,” said Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping. “Our sector needs more countries and companies to publicly articulate a decarbonization ambition, make plans, act accordingly and report on their progress.”

They believe that a global transition requires global targets, standards, and regulation. Members of IMO need to reach a consensus on ambitious absolute emission targets to reduce global GHG emissions from a well-to-wake perspective. Regional, national, and local policymakers and authorities must develop roadmaps encouraging dedicated investments in green energy and fuel infrastructure for the maritime industry transition and engineering capacity to build these facilities.

The report cites as an example that if the industry improves onboard energy efficiency by just one percent a year, a total of eight percent by 2030, that would save 24 million tons of fuel oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They call on shipowners and operators to take immediate action to increase energy efficiency saying that to achieve the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the industry must reduce its fossil fuel consumption from the current level of approximately 300 million tons by half by 2030.

“We know the challenges, the obstacles, the uncertainties, and the fears. To some, it may seem like a lot, and perhaps even overwhelming, but the only way to progress is by facing the challenges head-on. It is absolutely doable and we are seeing rapidly growing commitment and real climate action from governments, companies, and individuals across the globe,” said Cerup-Simonsen. 

The 79th general session of MPEC runs from December 12 to 16. The agenda includes the adoption of mandatory MARPOL amendments as well as a focus on climate change and energy efficiency for ships. Organizations are calling for changes to the Carbon Intensity Index (CII) which starts in January and will have its first reports in 2024. Critics say the IMO has been slow to take action resulting in others such as the EU’s recent agreement to include the maritime industry in the trading scheme. 

While individual companies have taken actions to improve energy efficiency and even simple steps such as scheduling adjustments of speed and timing on route, the view remains that shipping is one of the “hard to abate” sectors. As the focus intensifies on climate organizations are becoming more aggressive in their calls to reach the necessary global plan to place the industry on the right trajectory for achieving the goals for reducing carbon emissions.