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New ITF report reviews pathways to zero-carbon shipping

Deployment of all currently known technologies could make it possible to almost completely decarbonise maritime shipping by 2035, according to a new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the OECD.

Deployment of all currently known technologies could make it possible to almost completely decarbonise maritime shipping by 2035, according to a new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the OECD.

According to the report, “Decarbonising Maritime Transport: Pathways to zero carbon-shipping by 2035” the four different decarbonisation pathways examined would reduce international shipping’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions between 82 percent and 95 percent below the level currently projected for 2035.

This compares to a business-as-usual scenario in which carbon emissions from international shipping are projected to increase 23 percent to 1 090 million tonnes by 2035 compared to the 2015 level. An adjusted baseline projects carbon emissions from maritime shipping of 850 million tonnes by 2035

  • Alternative fuels and renewable energy can deliver much of the required reductions. Currently available biofuels should be complemented by other natural or synthetic fuels such as methanol, ammonia and hydrogen. Wind assistance and electric propulsion have shown that they can bring additional reductions.
  • Technological measures to improve the energy efficiency of ships could yield a substantial part of the needed emission reductions. Market-mature options include, among others, hull design improvements, air lubrication and bulbous bows.
  • Operational improvements such as slower ship speeds, smoother ship-port co-ordination and use of larger, more efficient ships could bring further, important emission reductions.

The report recommends to:

  • set a clear, ambitious emissions-reduction target to drive decarbonisation of maritime transport;
  • support the realisation of emissions-reduction targets with a comprehensive set of policy measures; and
  • provide smart financial incentives to advance decarbonisation of maritime shipping.

The report, the work for which was carried out with support from the European Climate Foundation, highlights that government intervention could make zero-carbon vessels more attractive and direct investment towards sustainable technologies and fuels.

Such guidance should include an ambitious decarbonisation target and a comprehensive set of short, medium and long-term measures including a “smart phasing-in” of carbon pricing for shipping which could facilitate the implementation of these measures to reach full decarbonisation.

Certainty about the desirable decarbonisation pathway for shipping will help drive change. Clear guidance from governments is therefore essential to accelerate the transition towards zero-carbon shipping, said Olaf Merk, ports and shipping expert at ITF.

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