Quick guide to COP26 and shipping decarbonisation

October 29, 2021

Shipping companies efforts to cut their GHG emissions are inadequate and the industry is urged to come up with a set of more ambitious and credible targets in the run up to COP26. We give you a quick guide to what is happening leading up to and at COP26.

Shipping companies’ efforts to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are inadequate and in line with global warming above 3 degrees by 2050 with potential to catastrophic global climate consequences, the UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned urging the industry to step up its commitment to the climate crisis as COP26 approaches. We will follow COP26 events and its outcome, and we start by giving you a quick guide to what’s happening in the run up to and at COP26.

The long-awaited UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland between 31st October and 12th November. This is an opportunity for industry leaders to show initiative and present ways to actively reduce carbon emissions in line with Paris Climate Agreement goals. The shipping industry’s involvement is extremely important given the share of carbon emissions that derive from sea-going vessels.  

Major shipping events connected to COP26

Shaping the Future of Shipping  

The International Chamber of Shipping is leading the event “Shaping the Future of Shipping", which takes place on 6th November. The main topics to be discussed include:

  • current and future measures to make the transition away from heavy-carbon fuels and towards a zero-carbon fleet,
  • creating a sustainable business plan for shipping decarbonization and reducing risk amongst the industry when it comes to decarbonization investments,
  • research and development for new technology to drive decarbonization, especially in relation to zero-carbon fuels,
  • and the strategy needed to ensure that the benefits of decarbonization are equitably shared amongst worldwide economies.

Attendees and key speakers include industry players, government ministers from Kenya, Chile, Cyprus, Panama, and Greece as well as UN and ICS (International Chamber of Shipping) representatives.

Ship ZERO°: Charging to True Zero  

The side event “Ship ZERO°: Charging to True Zero” organised by the Zero Emissions Ship Technology Association (ZESTAs) between 1st and 3rd November will present zero emissions ship technologies and designs and discuss the political and financial support needed to enable the transition to carbon-free shipping.  

ZESTAs Secretary General, Madadh MacLaine says “Shipping is an international industry and decisions must be made on an international level. Therefore, ZESTAs has chosen to hold this Zero Emissions Shipping Event on the first 3 days of COP 26 pushing the agenda forward by bringing together actors from across the sector.” MacLaine has also highlighted the role of shipping in reducing emissions stating that “the Paris Agreement will fail unless ships move rapidly to zero emissions.”

Key speakers include executives of energy industry players, marine engineering and manufacturing companies, bank executives and representatives from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), World Shipping Council and IMO.

Other events and initiatives

The International Maritime Organisation is amongst other events leading the “Maritime Decarbonization” on 10th November. A noteworthy event called “A Path Towards Affordable Zero Carbon Technologies” on 5th November explores the role of renewables, nuclear and hydrogen in decarbonizing the energy and transport sectors.

In the run up to COP26, several initiatives have been set up to encourage industry players to take an active role in decarbonization. The Race to Zero is a global UN campaign which urges non-state players across different industries to commit to the Paris Climate Agreement Goals and work towards halving carbon emissions by 2030. In addition, the Getting to Zero Coalition, UMAS and the UN High-Level Climate champions have established the 2030 Breakthrough targets aiming to achieve near term breakthroughs across every sector of the global economy. To help catalyse action, the 2030 breakthroughs pinpoint specific tipping points for every sector. With regards to the maritime industry, zero emission fuels must make up 5% of international shipping fuels by 2030 and 100% by 2045. More than 3,000 companies have signed up, however only AP Moller Maersk has joined the Race to Zero Campaign from the shipping industry. The COP26 is viewed as an opportunity for industry players to join UN initiatives and actively start working towards a defined set of goals aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement deal.

The First Movers Coalition, recently announced by John Kerry, US Special Presidential envoy for climate and the World Economic Forum, is seeking to persuade industry players to switch to low-carbon fuels by 2030 to encourage a transition away from traditional fossil fuel practices. Companies that have already committed to the coalition include Trafigura and A.P. Moller Maersk. The full list of members will be announced at COP26.

To further highlight the pressure to decarbonise the shipping industry, the Aspen Institute has created the Cargo Owners for Zero Emissions Vessels Coalition, where leading cargo owners have announced their intention to only use zero carbon fuelled vessels to transport their cargoes by 2040. This serves as an important incentive to actively invest in carbon-free technologies. Members of the coalition include but are not limited to Amazon, IKEA, Michelin, and Unilever.

Worth mentioning is also the Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonisation Initiative set up by the Getting to Zero Coalition in the run up to COP26. It calls on governments to work together with the industry to achieve zero emissions shipping by 2050, deploy zero emissions vessels by 2030 and ensure that national and international policies support industrial scale decarbonisation. More than 200 industry leaders and organisations across the maritime value chain have become signatories, which highlights the industry’s understanding of the significance of urgent climate action and shipping decarbonisation.

The COP26 has served as a catalyst to the creation of various initiatives and it represents a valuable opportunity for industry players to not only to show their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement Goals, but also to show government leaders the urgent need for global action and ambitious targets to achieve carbon neutral shipping by 2050.  

The IMO's MEPC77

The IMO’s 77th Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) takes place in November. Discussions will revolve around mid-and long-term measures to reduce shipping emissions including a potential cap and trade system and a fuel GHG intensity limit. It is interesting to see whether the IMO will adopt a more radical approach towards decarbonisation following COP26. All related updates will be discussed in detail once the MEPC meeting is completed.

We will follow COP26 and MEPC77 making sure to keep you up to date on the most relevant discussions and decisions regarding shipping decarbonisation, always looking at it from a commercial point of view. In the meantime, get more insight into shipping decarbonisation in other articles!

Carbon cost enters the maritime everyday business

Three ways in which the EU's "Fit for 55" package affects ship and cargo owners

IMO adopts operational emissions reduction measures despite strong criticism

IMO amendments raise awareness on the charterer's role in reducing emissions

Facts