Shipping lobby group advises caution on climate targets

An influential shipping industry group has quietly warned shippers to think carefully before signing up for a new plan to reduce pollution and ultimately eliminate their contribution to climate change.

The International Chamber of Shipping accounts for four-fifths of the world’s commercial fleet and in 2021 pledged to meet the Paris Agreement goal of reducing greenhouse gases to zero by 2050. “Talk is cheap, action is hard” , President Esben Poulsson said at the time .

But a confidential document obtained by the Associated Press shows the International Chamber of Shipping advised its domestic subsidiaries in March that member companies should “consider carefully the possible implications” before committing to a new plan to cut emissions. maritime.

Under the plan, shipping companies will report all their ships with their emissions, entering them into a new software tool. This includes pollution from the oil well to the engines, said Jean-Marc Bonello, a naval architect at UMAS, a for-profit maritime consultancy launched by experts at University College London, who helped design the instrument. Shippers will therefore need to improve efficiency or use cleaner fuels to reduce their emissions by 60% by 2036.

Shipping accounts for nearly 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization. A European Parliament report has warned that the quota could rise dramatically by 2050.

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has tailored plans for a number of industries including chemical, oil and gas, and aviation. It is a partnership between several non-profit organizations and the United Nations Global Compact, an initiative launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Maritime SBTi, released last fall, says the shipping industry must cut its emissions by 45% by 2030 to stay on track with Paris targets that seek to limit total temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Stuart Neil, director of communications for the International Chamber of Shipping, said in a telephone interview that the group took action after some of its member companies asked how the system would affect their businesses. It wasn’t about warning shipping companies, he said, pointing to another line in the memo that says the goals are an important initiative. The group was simply concerned about shipping companies signing up without proper analysis. “It has to be properly thought out,” he said.

An objection from the industry lobby group is that the goal would force shippers to count their indirect emissions, including those produced during the production of marine fuels, and does not take into account that more energy is used by sailing in bad weather. .

In response to claims that the group was reluctant to act, Neil said they had come up with various decarbonisation proposals of their own. He has suggested a $5 billion research and development fund to accelerate decarbonization and called on the International Maritime Organization to raise its ambitions to zero by 2050.

But some marine climate advocates are piqued.

John Maggs, director of maritime policy at Seas At Risk and chairman of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said by email that the SBTi plan was the “hardest minimum” to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.

“Without immediate action and deep cuts before 2030, the task becomes nearly impossible without significant industry disruption.”

The group has “always been the least ambitious, lowest common denominator player in the shipping industry,” Maggs said, “and the thought that they might actually have to do anything significant soon horrifies them.”

A goal thirty years into the future is not enough, Maggs warned, as echoed by scientists and international agencies. Goals for 2030 and 2040 are needed. He said no further research and development is needed because the technology and knowledge to clean up shipments already exist.

For example, a 10% reduction in speed would lead to a 27% drop in emissions, he said. Hybrid ships that run on a combination of wind power and marine fuels could also dramatically reduce emissions. Ships equipped with sails could save 10-30% in emissions, she said, and ships built to be cleaner from the start could save 50-70%. You listed eight vessels that are either planned or under construction claiming such reductions.

Michael Prehn is a diplomat from the Solomon Islands, who is urging the International Maritime Organization to adopt the SBTi targets. The Pacific Islands are among the nations most affected by sea level rise. Prehn agreed that the SBTi targets were the bare minimum to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

“We often hear from various industries that they want to do something that’s ‘doable,'” he said. “Usually not feasible just means very expensive.”

If nothing changes, it will result in a climate catastrophe devastating Pacific Islander life, he warned. “We’ve already had much more severe storms than before. If there is no transition, we will either drown or have to move the population somewhere else.”

Bonello of the maritime consultancy firm defined the pressure group’s action as short-sighted. He said evidence shows the plans are realistic and achievable.

“Watering it down is a dangerous strategy,” he added.

But Neil said science-based targets will definitely have an effect on business operations.

“We don’t want companies to join an initiative on the basis of public relations.”


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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