Action today, not tomorrow

International shipping is committed to reducing its emissions, that is clear. In the last few months, around the world, we have seen differing views on how we get there. But on Tuesday the UK government, for the first time, included shipping emissions in their next Carbon Budget, which covers the amount of greenhouse gases the country can emit between 2033 and 2037.

At the Chamber we support the UK government as they look to tackle climate change. Shipping is the most carbon-efficient way of transporting goods and is part of the solution in supporting the UK to achieve its ambitious new targets. As ever the devil is in the detail, but we look forward to getting more information on exactly how international shipping will be included in the Carbon Budget.

But it feels like we are at a pivotal moment.

New US leadership has seen the US Climate Envoy John Kerry calling on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to guide the industry towards net zero by 2050.

We know shipping is international by nature and we firmly support international regulations and we want to see the UK government work even harder at the IMO to bring about real, lasting change.

One way they can do that is by co-sponsoring the proposed $5bn research and development fund, to be achieved through a modest levy on the price of marine fuel. New technologies will be needed to decarbonise the industry and this fund would be an important step in the right direction. The R&D fund will develop the technology to make the use of alternative fuels a realistic option for shipowners.

Bringing forward the debate on Market Based Measures (MBMs) would also help to accelerate the decarbonisation of our industry. By putting a price on carbon emissions, shipowners will be encouraged to switch to alternative fuels.

At the Chamber we believe now is the time for the IMO member states to consider the role of MBMs. We can’t wait another few years to have this discussion. We need new technologies to be developed now so we can create commercially viable zero-carbon ships.

Shipping has a good story to tell, don’t let anyone say it doesn’t. We saw during the Suez Canal incident a few weeks ago just how vital shipping is to international trade and the industry has made great strides cutting its emissions in recent years.

Shipping emits around 2% of global Green House Gas emissions but moves 90% of global trade. It is 6 times more carbon efficient than trucks and 150 times more efficient than aviation. And over the last 10 years the industry has reduced its emissions by 10%, while facilitating a 30% increase of global trade. This is done through optimisation of operations and investment in technology and alternative fuels.

But we recognise the scale of the challenge. That is why action is need now, not tomorrow. It is a challenge because the technologies needed to achieve the 2050 target do not currently exist at a scale or in a form which is commercially viable, especially for long voyages.

We will need concerted R&D activity, led and incentivised by government, and supported by the industry, manufacturers, academics and innovators.

We will need industry to formulate new plans and co-ordinate work better. And we will need investment in skills, research and innovation so we can utilise world class universities and research centres.

The world is warming too quickly. We all know that; the science is clear. And if we are to tackle the greatest challenge of our generation, we need leadership, and action today, not tomorrow.