One of the Climate Week NYC events I attended was the webinar on Decarbonizing the Maritime Industry: Sailing Towards a Sustainable Future. This webinar was sponsored and organized by Bloom Energy, and included panelists from Foreship ltd, Environment Defense Fund, World Shipping Council, and Port of Long Beach, California. All the panelists are experts in various facets of the maritime industry and are closely involved in enabling greater energy efficiency and developing low-carbon fuels for maritime applications.


Importance of Scientific Evidence in Informing Collective Climate Action


In April 2018, the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization adopted its first strategy for reducing emissions from shipping vessels. The 173-member country members have committed to reducing emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. While a commendable target, this commitment is not aligned with the scientific evidence present to limit global temperature rise to within 2 degree Celsius. For that to happen, the emission reductions from global maritime needs to be reduced by 70% (for 2°C) or 100% (for 1.5°C). However, as pointed out in the webinar, this agreement is intended to be a starting point for emission reduction targets, and guiding principles for the shipping industry to become part of the transition to low-carbon future. To that end, the review mechanism has been enshrined in the strategy to step up the level of ambition in 2023. During the review, the strategy will be reviewed considering the new science and available solutions, and one can hope that the Maritime Industry can adopt the Science Based Targets.


Stakeholder Perspectives


World Shipping Council (WSC) – The maritime shipping represents greater than 70% of annual global trade. While emissions from shipping represent only 2.5% of the global emissions, these emissions are projected to grow by up to 250% by 2050 in absence of emissions reduction measures. WSC represents maritime corporations in in terms of regulatory policy on a broader level, including environmental policy. The WSC representative is a former lead negotiator on a series of international shipping environmental treaties. This reflects the depth of understanding and commitment to environmental reduction by key shipping partners.

The top environmental priority for WSC is to enable maritime fleet to move to a new set of non-fossil fuel technology and     enable the transition to zero carbon emissions. For the WSC, it is no longer a debate of whether to make the transition or not, but how to accelerate the transition across the sector.

Environment Defense Fund (EDF) – As a stakeholder, the EDF Shipping Team is focused on establishing the legal basis for International Maritime Organization’s climate measures, in addition to exploring holistic solutions to addressing air pollution and emissions reduction.

The Port of Long Beach, CA – has ambitious climate action plans. It aspires to achieve zero emissions from cargo handling equipment by 2030, port trucks by 2035, and reduce total GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The state of California and the port authorities are taking necessary measures to ensure these targets are met


Bloom Energy- As a commercial enterprise, Bloom Energy aspires to bring fuel cells that run on hydrogen, natural gas, or biogas to ships’ power plants. Using a flexible energy resource platform, Bloom aspires to help shipping industry unlock major efficiency, cost gains and reduction in maintenance downtimes.


Negotiation Tactics and Legislative Roadmap


Over the past few years, the World Shipping Council (WSC) has played an instrumental role in pushing its members in adopting energy efficiency measures. Maritime vessels that are now replacing current fleet are 30-50% more efficient. Furthermore, the WSC recommends fleets to reduce their nautical speeds by 20% to operate at optimum efficiency. However, all stakeholders acknowledge that energy efficiency gains will have limited impact due to ever-growing global trade. Hence the WSC is working with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to identify a cost-effective technical pathway. To that end, the has WSC proposes to establish an IMO Research and Development Board that funds and supports applied research and demonstration on clean power generation technology. The goal is to determine what set of technologies would be the most feasible to be adopted across a wide variety of shipping vessels

Furthermore, in partnership with other stakeholders, the IMO is working towards adopting regulatory and market-based incentives. These include a proposal for industry-wide carbon market, and regulated transition to cleaner fuels.