Lack of R&D investment ‘greatest blocker to shipping’s decarbonisation’, COP26 to be told

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Industry leaders will sound a warning that lack of investment in developing green technologies is the biggest threat to achieving decarbonisation targets, at one of the largest ever meetings of shipping executives and maritime states at COP26.

Key players representing 80% of global shipping will be meeting with ministers at the ‘Shaping the future of Shipping’ conference on 6th November in Glasgow. Attendees will identify ways to increase investment in R&D and hear about a number of projects already underway to reduce the emissions from international shipping, which is currently responsible for nearly 3% of global emissions.

Industry will highlight findings from the International Energy Agency, which show that under current policy framework scenarios, low and zero-carbon fuels will make up less than 3% of shipping’s total energy consumption by 2030 and roughly one third by 2050. This would fall significantly short of industry’s 2050 net-zero carbon target.

To inform the discussion the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has published “A zero emissions blueprint for shipping” identifying 265 example projects that could kickstart the acceleration of innovation to decarbonise the maritime sector. An option to fund such projects, that will also be discussed at the meeting, is the creation of a $5billion R&D fund – the ‘IMRF’ – paid for by shipowners to accelerate investment in these new zero emissions technologies.

Esben Poulsson, chairman of ICS, commented ahead of the conference: “The net zero carbon pathway that we have all committed to is not achievable without a rapid and unified increase in R&D spending. We know what needs to be done but we need a global solution for a global industry to ensure that developing economies are not left behind.

“This is why we are looking to representatives of government, at no financial cost to their taxpayers, to approve the proposed $5bn R&D fund as soon as possible. Right now, it is being held back due to political hesitancy. This is the time for leaders to step up.”

CEOs attending the event will showcase initiatives already underway to reduce reliance on carbon-heavy fuels, but will flag concerns about a lack of scalability given the piecemeal nature of the developments.

The shipping industry recently committed to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, doubling the IMO’s existing target. ICS and others have also pushed for a global carbon price in the form of a market-based measure to be introduced as soon as possible.