Maersk cuts CO2 emissions to zero by 2050
Thought this would be of interest – the world’s largest container shipping line, Maersk, has announced it will cut its CO2 emissions to zero by 2050, without using offsets.Maersk is in the group of the top 100 highest emitting companies, so this is significant. They say the next 5-10 years are crucial to scale up existing technologies, to achieve commercially viable ship using no fossil fuels by 2030.
Context for the ongoing COP24 negotiations is that this makes clearer a future zero-carbon global trade system. Meeting Paris Agreement goals can be done within a thriving, global economy.Denmark’s AP Moller Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping line, has announced it will cut its CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 without using offsets, heralding the prospect of carbon neutral international trade.
Maersk say that they will need to make zero-CO2 fuel and propulsion systems “commercially viable” by 2030, i.e reaching the same cost or cheaper than fossil fuels within 11 years.
Maersk transports nearly one in five seaborne containers worldwide. The company says it will work with its entire supply chain from engine manufacturers, shipbuilders and new technology providers, to come up with carbon-free ships by 2030.
“We will have to abandon fossil fuels. We will have to find a different type of fuel or a different way to power our assets. This is not just another cost-cutting exercise. It’s far from that. It’s an existential exercise, where we as a company need to set ourselves apart,” Soren Toft, Maersk’s chief operating officer, told the Financial Times.
The company has not yet revealed which green propulsion technology or combination of technologies they favour. However others in the sector have projects well underway using biofuels,hydrogen/ammonia, battery electricity, wind and solar power.
Tristan Smith, University College London: “Maersk’s announcement is a major step forwards for decarbonisation. At a time when many of their competitors are still trying to find ways to argue that LNG is sufficient, they send an unambiguous signal, not only that the future is zero emissions, but that that future is only ten years away”
John Maggs, Seas at Risk: "Maersk is right that emissions have to go to zero before 2050 if we are to avoid climate catastrophe and they should be applauded for promoting this long-term objective, but that doesn't absolve them of responsibility for reducing emissions in the short-term. In addition to this long-term vision they need to stop blocking efforts to cap and reduce ship speeds, the only short-term measure that can produce the deep, fast cuts in emissions that are necessary to keep warming below 1.5 degrees".
Biofuels not without risks
Responsibility for reducing shipping GHG emissions was delegated by UNFCCC to the specialist UN agency International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in London.
- Maersk’s announcement is at least partly a response to the International Maritime Organisation’s landmark Initial Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy, adopted in April this year. The objectives agreed to by governments in this strategy are to at least halve shipping sector GHG emissions by 2050, and to reduce by 40% by carbon intensity of the industry by 2030, both compared to 2008 levels.
- At next upcoming IMO meeting, MEPC74 in May 2019, countries will attempt to put more specific measures in place, such as speed limits, operational efficiency metrics, incentives to develop zero-emission fuels, and carbon pricing.
- Ships are responsible for roughly 3% of global CO2 and GHG emissions (CO2-eq), emitting approximately 1 billion tonnes of CO2 and GHGs per year, on average from 2007 to 2012 (Smith et al., 2015). Ship emissions are expected to increase in both absolute terms and in shipping’s share of global CO2 and GHG emissions.
- Shipping sector itself would rank 6th largest GHG emitter in the world in the country rankings.
- The announcement is also a response to pressure from Maersk’s customer base for zero emissions supply chains and freight services. Maersk are making a clear move to use their zero-emissions credentials to win market share, and opening this new battleground will be an important driver of change in shipping.
- The risks in the announcement are that Maersk are leaving open the option to use biofuels to reach these targets. This creates risks for further endorsement of a fuel type that has many scaling and sustainability challenges, not least risks of creating pressure on food prices. Maersk will need to quickly clarify how they will manage these risks.
- The container shipping industry transports about 60 percent of the value of global seaborne trade - more than US$ 4 trillion worth of goods annually.
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