Why shipping must up its game to fight global warming

As world leaders talk climate change solutions at COP22 in Marrakesh, the maritime industry looks set to intensify discussions on determining shipping’s fair share of reducing carbon emissions. Raising the ambition for global regulation remains crucial to ensure shipping’s contribution to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of staying below 2°C temperature rise.

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COP22 represents a clear-cut opportunity to take negotiations further and raise the bar for the commitment of shipping in 2018 and beyond.
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John Kornerup Bang, Chief Advisor on Climate Change, Maersk Group

Learn more about climate change in shipping

90% of global trade travels by sea. Without international shipping, the modern world wouldn’t be able to exchange goods at a level that creates economic opportunities for a growing population.

However, it remains a global challenge to boost growth and trade while reducing the impacts of climate change. While shipping is often the most efficient way of moving goods over long distances, the industry must step up its efforts to pollute less.

The maritime industry emitted close to 1000 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012, representing about 2.2% of global CO2 emissions. Depending on future development, this could rise to 15% by 2050, according to a new study by the Danish Shipowner’s Association (DSA) and UCL Energy Institute. This makes the sector pivotal in bringing down global emissions.

COP22 represents a clear-cut opportunity to take negotiations further and raise the bar for the commitment of shipping in 2018 and beyond. The industry can improve efficiency by up to 75% through operational measures and current technology, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). But achieving it demands a higher level of ambition than outlined in the current roadmap for 2017-2023, based on both technical, operational and economic measures – and without punishing early movers.

As a company, we are reaching a point where it will be more and more challenging to drive significant reductions on our own. More than ever, we need global regulation to ensure a level playing field and a transition with the biggest possible environmental impact.

Accelerate progress

The global agreement from COP21 in Paris entered into force on November 4 and to our disappointment, shipping is not part of it. Shipping must decarbonise at the same pace as the rest of the economy and contribute with its ‘fair share’ of CO2 reductions to achieve the global goal of staying below 2°C temperature rise. Global regulation remains a key driver in realising this ambition.

There is progress. Since COP21, the pressure has been on the IMO to determine the long-term commitment of the shipping industry. In late October 2016, the members of IMO’s committee for environmental protection, MEPC, agreed on a data collection system to map emissions and a roadmap for a strategy on how to reduce them and when.

This marks an important milestone in the regulation process. COP22 provides a platform to keep up the momentum and progress of global regulation. The initial strategy is coming up in 2018, and it must include a clear specification of a long-term ambition level for greenhouse gas reductions. The DSA study shows that emissions may have to peak no later than 2025 and reach as low as 400 megatonnes by 2050.

Streamlining energy consumption and supply chains

As the world’s largest container shipping company and with port and logistics operations across the globe, Maersk Group plays a major role in improving efficiency in energy consumption and supply chains. Since 2007, Maersk Line has reduced CO2 emissions per container moved by 42%. For several years, we have made improvements from network design and speed optimisation to technical upgrades and new and more efficient ships, like the Triple-E.

As a market leader, we’re constantly raising the bar for energy efficiency and have set an ambitious target of a 60% reduction per container by 2020. By doing this, we are playing our part in tackling the challenge of decoupling business growth from resource consumption. 

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