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The 2050 goal of carbon-free shipping is gaining momentum

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Calls for decarbonizing global shipping are gaining momentum after several sizable emerging economies joined wealthy nations and climate-vulnerable Pacific islands in supporting a firm objective at the UN’s maritime agency in London. The International Maritime Organization’s environmental committee conference saw calls for a net zero or zero carbon target from Nigeria, Chile, and Vietnam, among other nations. There is now a definite majority in favor, according to the advocacy group Seas at Risk, which increases the likelihood that the aim will be approved at the next meeting in June 2023.

Around 3% of world emissions are attributable to shipping. Under the industry’s goal of halving emissions from 2008 levels by 2050, this share is anticipated to increase as sectors like energy generation clean up more quickly. International shipping is not addressed in the Paris Agreement or covered by the majority of nations’ climate plans, like international air travel is not. The Seas at Risk campaign reports that 32 nations supported net zero or zero-carbon, while 10 opposed it. This shows a “dwindling opposition,” according to the organization, as at the previous conference in May 2022, 24 countries were opposed.

Zero carbon was endorsed by most of Europe and developed nations like the USA. Several island nations, such the Marshall Islands and Maldives, which are at risk from sea level rise, also did. Albon Ishoda, a Marshall Islands negotiator, stated: “We are the most climate vulnerable state in the world, and we are requesting a 1.5[C]-aligned strategy. In this situation, which neither we nor anybody else has asked for or provoked, we are among the countless numbers who will be killed as unintended casualties.

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He continued, “The constraints science tells us are the minimum needed to maintain a 1.5 agenda on the timetable are an 80% reduction by 2040 and zero emissions by 2050. The latest research in science and technology demonstrates that this is technically possible and realistic. The United Arab Emirates, China, Argentina, and other significant emerging nations issued warnings against adopting the aim. According to IMO regulations, South Africa’s negotiator, who cannot be identified without permission, stated that it could raise shipping costs and affect trade, especially for developing nations. They predicted that consumers will likely bear the brunt of these expenditures.

The negotiator for India emphasized the lack of clarity regarding the green fuels that will replace fossil fuels in ships. They were represented by someone who remarked, “We should not get carried away with merely worldwide calls without any scientific data to back it or practical means to achieve it.” Setting an extremely ambitious aim is not equivalent to realizing it, according to Brazil’s negotiator, who also stated that “such levels of ambition seem technically unstable and politically dangerous.”

According to an assessment ordered by the UK government, transitioning to cleaner fuel will result in higher expenses, particularly in the short term. Costs will have increased by nearly a third by 2050. According to the analysis, this increase is comparable to those brought on by changes in the cost of fossil fuels. University College London student Tristan Smith is one of the report’s writers. According to him, there is “a good justification for some support for developing countries, especially tiny island developing states and least developed countries throughout the transition” as a result of the cost increase.

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Technically speaking, fulfilling a target was doable, but it was unclear which clean fuel should be used, according to a McKinsey analysis from October 2021. Costs for shipowners are anticipated to increase when using low-carbon fuels like hydrogen or ammonia. Fossil fuels are difficult to compete with because of their low prices and well-established supply lines, it was discovered. The holdouts were seeking concessions, according to a delegate who wished to remain unnamed, who told Climate Home that these may include exemptions or discounts from carbon costs for ships calling at their ports. Other ideas to sweeten the arrangement include funding for port upgrades or a priority share of carbon market profits.

The IMO chair seeks to achieve an agreement. Countries vote if he is unable to, and the candidate receiving the most votes take the job. Either zero greenhouse gas emissions or net zero emissions of greenhouse gases could be the 2050 goal. Gas emissions may be net zero, but they would need to be offset by carbon dioxide emissions. Absolute zero was favoured by most nations. At the environmental committee meeting in June, there will also be discussion of interim goals for 2030 and 2040, as well as whether and how to put a price on carbon emissions from ships.

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