Environmental priorities for the shipping industry this year



Dr Simon Block writes for Splash today, introducing analysis by researchers at the Tyndall Center at the University of Manchester on the 2024 green targets for shipping.

2023 is a year of harsh and unrelenting climate disaster, reinforcing the urgency for stronger action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. This was recognized at the United Nations Climate Change Summit COP28 held in Dubai in December, where the need for an “end of the fossil fuel era” was suggested for the first time.

This has major implications for the shipping sector. One-third of the goods we transport are coal, oil, or gas, and we rely almost entirely on fuel oil as our energy source. Already recognizing that more work is needed in this area, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set out a new climate strategy last summer that strengthens previous targets. However, while some commentators hailed this strategy as a monumental achievement, others argued that it was still insufficient. Therefore, two important questions remain. First, are these new targets strong enough for the sector to play a fair role in achieving globally agreed climate change targets? Second, how quickly can the industry Should we take action?

New research from the University of Manchester addresses these questions. The new IMO strategy sets “indicative checkpoints” and “effort” targets for 2030 and he 2040, towards zero emissions by around 2050. Our study concludes that checkpoint targets of 20% reduction by 2030 and 70% reduction by 2040 are not sufficient. However, under generous assumptions, the ‘effort’ targets of 30% reduction by 2030 and 80% reduction by 2040 are compatible with the Paris goal of preventing global warming from exceeding 1.5°C. These effort goals should be considered the lowest level goals for this department.

The study also concludes that further delays in reducing transport emissions will make meeting 1.5°C impossible. Therefore, the priority for this decade should be action to reduce emissions. To achieve the “effort” target of at least 30% reduction by 2030, it is essential that policymakers and industry focus on accelerating the adoption of known technologies and practices. This is only six years away and we need to be fully committed to it. achieve.

IMO there are two clear priorities. First, tighten carbon intensity index (CII) targets to match absolute reductions of at least 30% by 2030, and strengthen CII enforcement and compliance mechanisms. Second, with carbon in fuels rising over time, agree a strong global carbon price that is 1.5°C-ready as soon as possible, and ensure that the proceeds are used to enable a fair transport transition for developing countries. to be used to

However, the IMO process takes time, and complementary action by national and regional policymakers, as well as the industry itself, is essential to accelerate and scale up already agreed initiatives and policies.

The introduction of new low-carbon fuel sources is essential for industry, which will significantly reduce emissions over the decade 2030-2040. Existing fleet operations and efficiency measures are paramount to achieving the 2030 goals. Cooperation between container companies and shippers is needed to reduce speeds. Eradicating the “leave early and then wait” practice advocated by the Blue-Visby Consortium requires a complete overhaul of outdated chartering practices. Wind propulsion retrofits can be deployed now and, when combined with route optimization, can deliver emissions reductions of around 17% on average, but more rapid deployment is needed.

Finally, national and regional policymakers can complement IMO actions. The EU has led the way with the inclusion of maritime into the EU ETS and the broader FuelEU package. But nation-states can act as well. One notable strategy is the imminent revision of the UK’s Clean Oceans Plan. The UK was one of the countries that advocated “high ambition” at the IMO last summer. The UK’s new domestic strategy needs to address its 2030 targets, which are higher than the global average, alongside strong new policies.

2023 was the year the shipping industry agreed to new goals. 2024 is the year we need to start reducing emissions quickly.

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