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3 Jul 20233 min read

Pressures Mount On Maritime Transport Industry To Cut GHG Emissions


In the global efforts to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions, the maritime transport industry has come under scrutiny for its significant contribution to greenhouse gases. The shipping sector emits as much CO2 in a year as Germany, making it one of the largest global sectors without a goal for cutting emissions to “net zero”. This issue was deemed too difficult to be included in the 2015 Paris climate pact, which aimed to keep global warming in check. As a result, the industry is now facing mounting pressure to address its carbon footprint and adopt sustainable practices. 

The Environmental Impact of Maritime Transport 

Maritime transport plays a crucial role in global trade, facilitating the movement of goods across the world’s oceans. However, this vital industry comes at a significant environmental cost. These vessels often burn highly polluting fuels, such as heavy fuel oil, which contribute as much as 3% of the world’s global carbon dioxide emissions. The carbon emissions from shipping not only contribute to climate change but also contribute to air pollution and ocean acidification. 

The impact of maritime transport on global warming cannot be ignored. The emissions from ships, particularly those powered by fossil fuels, contribute to the overall greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. As a result, the world is experiencing rising temperatures, melting ice caps, and extreme weather events. It is imperative for the shipping industry to take urgent action to reduce its carbon footprint and transition towards sustainable shipping practices. 

The Road to Decarbonisation: Challenges and Opportunities 

This week, under the control of the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), delegates from 175 shipping countries are gathering in London to discuss and negotiate a new timeline for completely decarbonising the industry. The goal is to achieve “net zero” emissions, where any remaining emissions are balanced out by equivalent carbon removal, by a certain target year. However, the timeline for this ambitious target is still under debate, with differing opinions on the feasibility and urgency of decarbonisation. 

Faïg Abbasov, from Transport & Environment, emphasises the need for swift action, stating that waiting until 2050 to decarbonise is akin to waiting for one’s house to burn down before calling the fire brigade. The evidence shows that it is technically possible to halve emissions by 2030, and the costs of such measures are manageable. The maritime transport industry must embrace this opportunity to transition to cleaner fuels, improve energy efficiency, and invest in innovative technologies. 

Moving Towards a Sustainable Future 

To achieve meaningful progress in reducing greenhouse gases, the shipping industry must take a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, there is a need to invest in research and development of new propulsion technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells and wind-assisted propulsion systems. These technologies have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions and offer a promising path towards sustainable shipping. 

Additionally, the industry should prioritise energy efficiency measures, such as optimising vessel design, improving operational practices, and adopting alternative power sources. Implementing slow steaming, which involves reducing ship speeds to reduce fuel consumption, can also contribute to emissions reduction. Furthermore, increased use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, can help offset the carbon footprint of maritime transport. 

So, What Happens Next? 

The maritime transport industry is under pressure to reduce greenhouse gases and transition towards sustainable shipping practices. The emissions from shipping contribute significantly to global carbon dioxide emissions and exacerbate climate change. Our white paper ‘Maritime Transport: Fuels, Emissions and Sustainability’ details various sustainable solutions for ports and shipping companies. Ports around the world are already making steps towards a more sustainable future, learn about our Detroit Wayne Country Port Authority Decarbonisation Project.

The industry must seize the opportunity to decarbonise by investing in new technologies, improving energy efficiency, and embracing renewable energy sources. The upcoming meeting in London presents a crucial opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate and set ambitious targets for the industry’s decarbonisation. By taking decisive action now, the maritime transport industry can play its part in mitigating climate change and building a more sustainable future. 


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