Researchers show how shipping can almost halve its emissions by the end of the decade Ship’s crew

As the International Maritime Organization (IMO) finalizes its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping next month, Dutch researcher CE Delft has released a report that sheds light on how international shipping can nearly halve its emissions by the end of this decade.

So far, IMO member states have only adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, targeting a 50% reduction by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. However, member states are expected to revise this strategy next month during a meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, known as MEPC 80. A key theme in the revision is not only setting a new target for 2050, but also whether to set targets for 2030 and 2040.

So far, delegations have proposed emission reductions of between 29% and 50% compared to 2008 for 2030 and between 50% and 96% for 2040.

To support the emission reduction debate, CE Delft has modeled the maximum emission reduction potential for the shipping sector. They found that it is technically possible for international shipping to reduce its emissions by 28-47% by 2030 compared to 2008 levels, but only if ships take all available technical mitigation measures. These measures include the widespread use of wind-based technology, a 20-30% speed reduction and a 5-10% introduction of zero greenhouse gas fuels. Additionally, such a reduction would increase shipping costs by an average of 6-14% compared to business-as-usual (BAU).

The report also found that about half of emissions reductions are due to lower speeds and other operational measures, a quarter to wind-assisted propulsion and other engineering measures, and another quarter to using fuels that produce no or almost no greenhouse gas emissions.

As an IMO intersessional working group starts a week-long meeting to prepare the revised strategy this week, delegates have a lot to think about when considering emissions targets for a sector that transports about 90 percent of world trade.

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