The International Maritime Organization has set a net-zero goal “by or around 2050”. What is needed to reach this?
At a UN summit, countries have agreed to curb shipping emissions to net zero “by or around 2050”.
At the annual meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), countries agreed to cut emissions by 20% by 2030 and 70% by 2040, compared to 2008 levels, and 100% by or around 2050. Small island nations and richer countries had called for a 50% reduction by 2030 and 96% by 2040.
Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the IMO, described the deal as a “monumental development [that] opens a new chapter towards maritime decarbonisation”. But campaigners warn that the deal is flawed and will fail to bring the shipping industry in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C by the end of this century.
Shipping is a highly polluting industry, responsible for nearly 3% of global emissions and generating around one billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year – roughly the same amount as Germany’s carbon footprint. If it were a country, the shipping industry would be the sixth largest polluter in the world.
Reducing maritime emissions rapidly in the next three decades will require new regulations, infrastructure and fuels. But what might green shipping of the future look like?
The shipping industry can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by turning to an ancient technology: sails. Wind propulsion is considered one of the most promising energy sources available for the rapid decarbonisation of shipping. Swedish company Oceanbird has built a prototype ship with four rigid sails. Wind power not only propels the ship forward but also aids its manoeuvrability and agility on the water. One of the biggest challenges is encouraging governments and investors to adopt wind propulsion and retrofit ships, while wind propulsion is still early-stage. (Read more: Will shipping return to its ancient roots?)
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