The sector is under growing pressure to get cleaner, but operates in a perfect storm of ineffectual international legislation and toothless enforcement.
Maritime shipping is largely regulated by a U.N. agency, the International Maritime Organization, that is dominated by industry associations and countries with a strong interest in shipping.
The International Maritime Organization has set a target to reduce cargo ship climate pollution by at least 50 percent by 2050, but has failed to adopt effective short-term measures that would begin shrinking pollution impacts from cargo ships.
Pressure is building on cargo ship owners and major goods companies to invest in cleaner cargo ships and support is growing to strengthen the International Maritime Organization 2050 goal to zero emissions. 11 Asian countries recently added their support to the Pacific Islands proposal of zero emissions by 2050, as well as a $100 carbon price on shipping to fund this transition, and raise around $50 billion a year in climate finance to strengthen climate vulnerable countries’ response to climate change. In addition to the EU 27 member states, US, UK, and Norway, around 45 countries now support a goal of zero global shipping emissions by 2050.
The European Union, the world’s largest trading block, plans to include international shipping both into and out of its ports within its Emissions Trading Scheme within the next few years. US lawmakers are also studying whether to launch a similar “Monitoring, Reporting and Verification” system for shipping emissions, the building block of an emissions trading scheme.
Existing and emerging technologies are making zero emissions shipping possible, and cutting another lifeline for the oil and gas industry.