Shipping sector proposes $5 billion R&D board to cut emissions

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The global maritime industry has submitted a proposal to form a $5 billion R&D board to cut CO2 emissions from international shipping.

The proposal includes core funding from shipping companies across the world of about $5 billion over a 10-year period, which will be collected as a mandatory contribution of $2 per tonne of marine fuel purchased.

The International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB) and its funding is an initiative of the leading international shipowners’ associations including the International Chamber of Shipping.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the ICS, said: “We must not leave it to others to carry the burden of addressing the climate crisis. Nor will we ask others to decide the future of maritime. We embrace our responsibility, and we ask the world’s governments to support our efforts.

“Greta Thunberg is right to say that ‘creative accounting and clever PR’ often lie behind supposed commitments to sustainability, but our plans are transparent, and our regulator has teeth. Now we ask the wider shipping community for their blessing. Change on this scale is difficult and often daunting. But in this case, it could not be more necessary.”

Esben Poulsson, Chairman of ICS, added: “The coalition of industry associations behind this proposal are showing true leadership. The shipping industry must reduce its CO2 emissions to meet the ambitious challenge that the International Maritime Organization has set. Innovation is therefore vital if we are to develop the technologies that will power the Fourth Propulsion Revolution. This proposal is simple, accountable and deliverable and we hope governments will support this bold move.”

Highlights of the proposal include a new non-governmental Research & Development organisation to pave the way for decarbonisation of shipping; core funding from shipping companies across the world of about $5 billion over a 10-year period; to accelerate the development of commercially viable zero-carbon emission ships by the early 2030s.

International maritime transport carries around 90% of global trade and is currently responsible for approximately 2 percent of the world’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions.  To achieve the Paris Agreement’s climate change goals, rapid decarbonisation is vital – also for international shipping.  It is shipping’s global regulator, the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), which has responsibility for regulating the reduction of CO2 emissions by international shipping.

The industry-wide move to accelerate R&D is necessary to ensure the ambitious CO2 reduction targets agreed to by IMO Member States in 2018 are met.

These ambitious IMO targets include at least halving the sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, regardless of trade growth, with full decarbonisation shortly after. The 2050 target will require a carbon efficiency improvement of up to 90%, which is incompatible with a continued long-term use of fossil fuels by commercial shipping.

Meeting the IMO GHG reduction goals will require the deployment of new zero-carbon technologies and propulsion systems, such as green hydrogen and ammonia, fuel cells, batteries and synthetic fuels produced from renewable energy sources.  These do not yet exist in a form or scale that can be applied to large commercial ships, especially those engaged in transoceanic voyages and which are currently dependent on fossil fuels.

The IMRB, a non-governmental R&D organisation that would be overseen by IMO Member States, will be financed by shipping companies worldwide via a mandatory R&D contribution of $2 per tonne of marine fuel purchased for consumption by shipping companies worldwide, which will generate about $5 billion in core funding over a 10-year period.

This is critical to accelerate the R&D effort required to decarbonise the shipping sector and to catalyse the deployment of commercially viable zero-carbon ships by the early 2030s.

Other international shipowners’ associations involved are BIMCO, Cruise Lines International Association, Intercargo, Interferry, INTERTANKO, International Parcel Tankers Association and World Shipping Council, and additional stakeholders’ participation is welcomed.  A global fund can be established quickly, and the shipping industry is confident that other stakeholders will also want to contribute, potentially generating substantial additional funding for R&D.

In a proposal to the UN IMO, the industry has set out details for governance and funding of the coordinated R&D programme, which can be put in place by 2023 via amendments to the existing IMO Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Simon Bennett, Deputy Secretary General, ICS, said: “Even using conservative estimates for trade growth, a 50% total cut in CO2 by 2050 can only be achieved by improving carbon efficiency of the world fleet by around 90%. This will only be possible if a large proportion of the fleet is using commercially viable zero-carbon fuels. In practice, if the 50% target is achieved, with a large proportion of the fleet using zero-carbon fuels by 2050, the entire world fleet would also be using these fuels very shortly after, making 100% decarbonisation possible – which is the industry’s goal.”

The shipping industry’s proposal will be discussed by governments in London at the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in March 2020.