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Towards a zero-carbon future

26 June 2019
Towards a zero carbon future
A.P. Moller - Maersk is driving the progress towards a carbon-neutral future of transport and logistics and calling on all industry players to join the global effort. 

By Taylor Johnson

Changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and decreasing biodiversity. We are already experiencing the physical impacts of climate change which has become one of the most important issues the world is facing today. 

As shipping accounts for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions and around 80% of world trade travels by sea, the industry holds significant potential to help create a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 – contributing to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of staying well below 2°C temperature rise.

To accelerate the transition to carbon-neutral shipping, Maersk has set a new and ambitious target in 2018 of having net-zero CO2 emissions from operations by 2050.

“The only possible way to achieve the so much needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon-neutral fuels and supply chains,” says Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer of Maersk. 

Carbon-neutral vessels from 2030

Due to the 20-25-year lifetime of a vessel, Maersk must have carbon neutral vessels commercially viable by 2030 to realise the 2050 target. Developing new fuels and vessel technologies as well as optimising networks will be major contribution areas.

“We will invest significant resources in innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonised solutions,” continues Toft. 

Over the past four years, Maersk has invested around USD 1bn and engaged more than 50 engineers each year in developing and deploying energy-efficient solutions. The focus is on finding solutions specific to ocean transport, as the industry calls for different solutions compared to transportation by vehicle, train or plane.

For instance, the electric truck is expected to carry a maximum load of two, twenty-foot containers (TEUs) and it runs 800km per charging. In comparison, a vessel carrying thousands of containers from Panama to Rotterdam travels around 8800km. With a short battery life and no charging points along the route, new solutions are imperative. 

The only possible way to achieve the so much needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon-neutral fuels and supply chains.

Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer of Maersk
Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer of Maersk

The call for collaboration  

For several years, Maersk has taken a leading role on behalf of the industry to improve energy efficiency. As a result, the company has achieved a 41% relative reduction in CO2 emissions from its activities, compared to 2008. 

The company has managed to decouple emissions from trade growth, and continues to focus on efficiency improvements. Maersk’s efficiency target, now aiming for a 60% reduction relative to cargo moved by 2030 from a 2008 baseline, has been aligned with the International Maritime Organization’s strategy for greenhouse gas reductions in shipping.

However, the climate change problem can only be solved by becoming carbon-neutral as efficiency will not be enough. With current technology proving insufficient, Maersk recognises the need for innovation and collaboration across the industry. 

“Going forward we cannot do this alone,” says Toft. 

By setting the ambitious target of net-zero emissions by 2050, Maersk hopes to inspire researchers, technology developers, investors, cargo owners and legislators to come together in co-development and sponsorship of sustainable solutions that we are yet to see in the maritime industry.

Beyond fuels and vessel technology

Research and development will be key to take the industry away from today’s fossil-based technology. And it is not purely about developing new ship designs or fuel types, according to John Kornerup Bang, Head of Sustainability Strategy and Chief Advisor on climate change at Maersk.

“Building a new supply chain and changing incentive structures in the market to support these new solutions is very important, and this is why we are calling all actors related to the shipping industry to join this journey,” he says.

How climate change develops will impact business strategy, performance and market conditions globally – for Maersk, its suppliers and its customers.

In 2019, Maersk is open to initiate open and collaborative dialogue with all possible parties to tackle one of the most important issues in the world: climate change. 

Contributing to global goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have defined a new and enhanced space for businesses to contribute to solving major global challenges, such as the growing urgency to tackle climate change.

See below how Maersk’s sustainability strategy contributes to the goals.
Sustainability strategy model

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