The international maritime industry has reached a significant agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions by around 2050. New guidelines were adopted, following a week of negotiations at a conference held by the UN’s International Maritime Organization in London,
Previously, the shipping industry had set a goal to halve emissions by 2050, including shipbuilding and maritime-related finance. The adopted document now sets specific targets for emissions reductions: a decline of at least 20% by 2030, aiming for 30%, and a reduction of at least 70%, striving for 80%, by 2040 compared to the 2008 baseline.
Shipping, responsible for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is now aligning its efforts with the aviation industry, which is also aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the agreement faced resistance from major exporters like China, while climate-vulnerable nations and wealthier countries pushed for stronger commitments.
The majority of the world’s cargo ships, which transport 90% of global goods, currently rely on diesel fuel. To achieve the net-zero goal, the industry was called upon to reach peak emissions as soon as possible and consider different national circumstances.
Additionally, the agreement emphasized the importance of phasing out greenhouse gas emissions in line with the long-term temperature goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. The conference also introduced a new reporting regime to monitor fuel use by the largest ships.
While the outcome was considered a significant step forward, critics argued that the agreed targets fell short of what is necessary to limit global heating to below 1.5ºC. However, many stakeholders welcomed the agreement as a positive step in the right direction. The maritime industry now has a comprehensive emissions reduction strategy, with indicative checkpoints for reductions by 2030, 2040, and around 2050.
The prospect of implementing an emissions price mechanism is being discussed in the IMO’s working committees, and there are new benchmarks for the greenhouse gas intensity in maritime fuels. The strategy, although not perfect, is seen as a crucial development toward achieving a more sustainable and environmentally friendly shipping sector.