Decarbonise shipping by 2034

Ships need to improve their CO₂ intensity by at least 80 per cent by 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2034, according to a new proposal to be discussed at the International Maritime Organization (IMO).The current IMO climate strategy has a target to improve CO₂-intensity by only 40 per cent from 2008 to 2030. But a much higher ambition level is required to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, argue the two environmental NGOs behind the new proposal, Clean Shipping Coalition and Pacific Environment.

Their new goal-based approach aims to achieve Paris-compliant emission reductions, by prescribing linear carbon intensity improvements per ship of at least 80 per cent by 2030 compared to 2008.

According to their proposal, the cumulative emissions of greenhouse gas from 1 January 2018 onwards, should not exceed shipping’s 1.5°C carbon budget of 9 Gt (2.22% of 420 Gt left to humanity if it is to keep global heating below 1.5°C). That means that both absolute emissions and the annual carbon intensity of the sector should be reduced linearly between now and 2034 to ensure that there is a smooth transition to carbon-free shipping. Anything less than that would mean an unacceptable risk of failing to keep global heating below 1.5°C.

A goal-based approach leaves it to individual ships to choose their method of compliance with the regulation’s requirements. To improve their carbon intensity, ships can use the following approaches, individually or in combination: 

  • Reduced ship speed; 
  • Energy-saving technologies, including but not limited to wind-assistance; and 
  • A switch to zero-carbon fuels.

The new proposal was originally set to be discussed by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in late March, but due to the Corona pandemic the meeting has been postponed and is now scheduled for October.

Source: “A proposal for and an initial impact assessment of a goal-based approach to realize the substantial speed-related GHG emission reductions that are urgently needed in the short-term and to provide a framework for the full decarbonization of shipping in the longer-term”. IMO Document ISWG-GHG 7/12/12, 7 February 2020, submitted by Pacific Environment and Clean Shipping Coalition.

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