COP26: Wind blows steadily towards net zero shipping by 2050

Collaborating to get shipping to net zero emissions by 2050 seems to be the COP26 shipping chant. The COP26-spotlight has brought stakeholders from the full shipping ecosystem to the table and both governments, finance industry and shipping customers are calling for collaboration and raised decarbonisation ambitions. Now, it remains to be seen if the COP26 wind is strong enough to get the IMO to adjust its sails.

The most important outcomes of the COP26 are not only found in the signed conference documents, but in discussions and work done in the run up to and in the corridors of the actual conference. The pre COP26 attention has brought shipping emissions into the spotlight and decision-makers not only within shipping companies but in governments, in finance and amongst shipping customers recognize the pivotal role that the maritime industry plays in achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2050.  

Will the COP26 wind lead the shipping industry towards net zero emissions in 2050?

Collaborating to reach net zero by 2050

Looking back at previous international meetings and conferences, it is encouraging to see the change of attitude, and how the full maritime ecosystem is starting to embrace the challenge. The signal amidst the noise is one of alignment around the ambition of a net zero emissions shipping industry by 2050, and of recognition that we need collaboration to get there. No government can reach climate targets if they do not include shipping and shipping cannot be decarbonised without the support from governments and the different stakeholders in the shipping value chain.  

The industry has seen several initiatives in the run up to and during the COP26, some urging for global regulations and calling for collaboration between public and private sector others presenting cross industry actions.  We sum up some of the initiatives that we believe will influence the future of the shipping industry.

Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors 

  • Aims to create six green shipping corridors by 2025 and more by 2030 
  • Promotes international partnerships along the shipping value chain 
  • 22 countries have signed

Declaration on Zero EmissionShipping by 2050

  • Commits to zero emission shipping by 2050
  • Encourages international collaboration for industry decarbonisation 
  • 14 countries have signed

Climate Vulnerable Forum Declaration

  • Calls on the IMO to introduce GHG levy  
  • Stresses importance of full decarbonisation by 2050 
  • Highlights the need to assist vulnerable nations with decarbonisation 
  • 55 countries have signed

Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonisation 

  • Calls on governments to commit to shipping decarbonisation by 2050 
  • Highlights the need for collaboration between private and public sector
  • Scale up action for zero emissions vessels and at least 5% zero emissions fuels by 2030  
  • 186 companies have joined, 17 supporting organisations, led by the Getting to Zero Coalition 

Cargo owners for Zero Emissions Vessel Coalition 

  • Calls for full decarbonisation of the maritime sector by 2050 
  • Commit to decarbonise their maritime freight by 2040 
  • Support the switch to zero emissions fuels and ships 
  • 9 corporations have joined including Amazon, Unilever, IKEA and Michelin

First Movers Coalition 

  • Commits to net zero by 2050 
  • Shipowners commit to 5% of deep-sea shipping to be powered by zero emission fuels and ships by 2030 
  • Cargo owners commit to 10% of the volume of goods shipped internationally will be on ships powered by zero-emission fuels by 2030 and towards 100% by 2040 
  • Members include 34 industry players and 16 organisations and NGOs

Zero Emission Shipping Mission

  • Global initiative for net zero shipping by 2050
  • Highlights the need for ships running on zero-emission fuel to be in the water by 2030 and zero-emission fuels infrastructure to be in place by 2030
  • Members include 22 countries and the European Union, 6 collaborators including IEA, WEF and World Bank
COP26 inspired several initiatives. The factbox sums up some of the most influential ones.

Not unexpected, outcomes are mainly words and not actions. However, a mental bridge has been crossed to a place where very few question the need for a shipping transition. Most stakeholders agree that change is inevitable, and this prepares us for the next step, which is action - urgent action.  

At the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Comittee (MEPC) meeting in London next week global decarbonisation targets will be discussed. It will be interesting to see whether the wind that is building, in form of initiatives and discussions both on a governmental and industry level urging for global regulations, will bring the IMO vessel closer to net zero by 2050.  

One thing is for sure, the shipping industry has moved one firm step forward – but now, let’s keep on sprinting!

Quick guide to COP26 and shipping decarbonisation

The COP26 shipping outcomes

Factbox ENVI suggestion