Most Carriers Have No Zero Carbon Commitments
Only 35 percent of the major carriers are set to achieve net zero emissions or have committed to the targets of 50 percent set by the International Maritime Organization. A new study by the Center for Zero Carbon Shipping looks at the actions and ambitions of the biggest carriers by capacity in car/RORO, container, bulk, and tanker segments. The latter account for the majority of maritime emissions (70 percent).
Shipping Industry Share of Carbon Emissions
With a fleet of about 100,000 ships, the industry consumes some 300 metric tons per year, translating into 2.5 – 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While the shipping industry accounts for a small share, it is projected to increase in light of the fact that other industries are tackling their carbon emissions.
There was also a 4.9 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, mainly due to port congestion, higher sailing speeds for some types of ships, and longer tonne-mile trades, driving emissions higher. Carbon emissions increased most notably for gas carriers, along with bulk carriers and containership.
Decarbonization in Progress
Experts note that there is still a long way to go to achieve net-zero shipping despite that progress has been made. Compared to other sectors of the economy, the number of carriers with net zero or IMO commitments remains low. According to a 2020 study involving major companies across sectors and in 52 countries, 45 percent of leisure and transport, 56 percent of gas and oil, and 66 percent of automotive businesses had emission reduction targets and sustainability reports.
Analysis also reveals that 16 out of 30 of the biggest container shipping companies have set emission reduction targets, making it the segment with the highest level of commitment.
Government Action Needed
While there is still progress to be made on the part of shipowners, it is important that governments develop mandatory reporting requirements based on global standards. Carriers should also be subject to independent auditing to ensure transparency about their carbon reduction and climate targets. International freight forwarding operators and carriers need to make real progress to live up to expectations from the general public, insurance companies, investors, employees, and customers.
There is more to be done to achieve long-term decarbonization, however. As a globally regulated sector, the industry provides an opportunity to integrate next generation technologies and alternative fuels. A drop-dead date needs to be set for building fossil-fuel powered ships. Not only shipping but all sectors of the economy can only function with enforceable, clear timeframes and deadlines.
Also, ships should take abatement measures such as sailing at lower speeds to comply with the Carbon Intensity Indicator and Efficiency Index for Existing Ships goals. The Indexes’ metrics are calculated based on deadweight, design speed, and service speed.
Last but not least, an increase in carbon pricing can help close the gap between conventional fossil fuels and alternative green fuels. This can be a good strategy for driving a behavior change to ensure that sea freight in Europe is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternative.