The recent COP28 climate conference in Dubai highlighted the role of the maritime sector in addressing the pressing issue of climate change.
While the conference was marked by both progress and setbacks, there was a clear consensus from the sector that shipping, as a major emitter of greenhouse gases, is ready to take a leading role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Recognition of Maritime Emissions
The importance of decarbonising the maritime sector was acknowledged by multiple stakeholders, from government to the private sector, at the recent COP28.
Although shipping was not explicitly included in the final COP28 declaration, there was plenty of activity to support the wider ambitions and ensure shipping plays a pivotal role on the journey to decarbonisation.
Commitments to Net-Zero Shipping
Maritime leaders responded positively to the continued agreement around shipping's role on the journey to Net-Zero, with countries, ports, and companies making more than 60 announcements under the Green Shipping Challenge at COP28.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), representing many of the world's shipping lines, agreed on a course to deliver the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) net-zero strategy.
Closer to home, during the World Climate Action Summit, the UK and USA reinforced their support for the Green Shipping Challenge with an announcement on a new green shipping corridor collaboration. Building on the Clydebank Declaration of COP26, these green shipping corridors intend to help propel the sector towards a zero-emission future and support the limiting of global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Challenges and Opportunities
While these commitments are encouraging, there are still significant challenges to overcome in decarbonising the maritime sector. One challenge is the availability of alternative fuels, such as biofuels, ammonia, and hydrogen, many of which are still in their early stages of development and may require significant investment to scale up.
Another challenge is the infrastructure needed to support the use of alternative fuels, such as bunkering facilities and refuelling stations. These facilities need to be established in ports around the world to enable ships to switch to cleaner fuels.
Collaboration and Innovation
Despite these challenges, there is a strong sense of collaboration and innovation within the maritime industry to address the issue of emissions. Governments, shipping companies, and technology providers are working together to develop and implement new solutions which are seeing tangible results, at pace.
The IMO also remains critical in its role in regulating and reducing shipping emissions through international standards, guidance, and support. This was evidenced in remarks by the new IMO’s incoming Secretary-General and current Director of the Marine Environment Division, Mr. Arsenio Dominguez, who gave an enthusiastic account on ambitions for the IMO as the appropriate international body to continue work to address these issues.
While challenges remain, the organisation's commitment to a cleaner maritime future is evident in its evolving regulations and frameworks.
Looking Ahead – Is there another way?
The COP28 conference marked an important moment for the maritime sector in its continued commitment to decarbonisation.
The next steps will involve looking at alternative solutions and ensuring maximum opportunites for efficiencies are captured for current fleets. In particular, the use of digital technology such as the 90POE OpenOcean STUDIO platform, to support the immediate reduction of GHG emissions, should be explored alongside the rollout of larger and more costly infrastructure projects associated with alternative fuels.
Indeed, a recent Ocean Panel Report, identified decarbonising shipping as a key component of seven ocean-based climate sub-sectors that could deliver up to 35% of the annual emission cuts required, the report also noted that 'take-up of technology and operational improvements for efficiency remains far lower than its potential…changes can be made now and are not dependent on a broader energy transition, and in many cases they can be cost-neutral since increasing efficiency reduces fuel use and saves money.'
In conclusion, COP28 showed the maritime industry is broadly united and ready to play a leading role in achieving Net-Zero, however there is still a way to go in order to ensure a competitive, compliant and sustainable open ocean.