Shipping Sector Sailing in a Changing Climate

The shipping industry must cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% by 2050, according to a research effort ‘Shipping in Changing Climates’.

Rising trade and demand means this will require substantial efficiency improvements in the average ship, which will have to reduce in carbon intensity some 60-90% by mid century, the research showed.

Under a more ambitious 1.5C warming limit supported by over 50 climate vulnerable nations it must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

Switching to LNG or improving energy efficiency of ships alone “is not sufficient,” greater reductions in GHG will only be enabled through a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and low carbon fuels/energy, according to the research.

Zero emission ships, already becoming part of the global fleet on certain niche routes, would increasingly become the mainstream technology with significant penetration into the market from around 2030.

The findings of the 4-year research, supported by over 30 partners from industry and academia including Lloyds Register, Rolls Royce, BMT, Shell and MSI, were unveiled at London International Shipping Week.

“Following our low carbon pathways 2050, we have seen a transition in the mindset, with broad industry buy-in, to do something,” Katharine Palmer, Environmental Manager, Lloyds Register, said.

“But the question we are asked now is, ‘how are we going to do this in practice?’. The next step we are taking is to look at what threshold levels are needed to make zero emission technologies viable and what our responsibility is in handling this inevitable change,” Palmer added.

Shipping in Changing Climates’ recommendations include cutting the operational CO2 intensity for all containerships, tankers and dry-bulk by 60-90% on 2012 levels by 2050 just to reach a two degree pathway.

Other recommendations are that major companies should consider undertaking climate risk analysis, and implementing internal carbon pricing to prepare their business for forthcoming regulation under tougher climate policies.

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