A new study examining the top shipping companies’ commitment to decarbonization shows that only 35% have a clearly expressed emissions target to be net-zero by 2050. The assessment, conducted by the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, draws on published decarbonization ambitions and actions of the largest companies by owned capacity in the tanker, bulk, container, and RORO/car segments. Together, these four segments cause a substantial share (70%) of global maritime emissions.
The state of decarbonization in the maritime industry shows that while real progress has been made, there is a long way to go for the industry to reach net-zero within the limited time left to transition. A comparison with other sectors suggests that 35% of shipping companies with IMO or net-zero 2050 pledges is low. A 2020 KPMG report looking at top-100 companies by revenue in 52 countries across industries found that 66% of automotive, 56% of oil and gas, and 45% of transport and leisure companies had sustainability reports with carbon reduction targets.
“The MMMCZCS strongly encourages shipowners to set ambitious emissions reduction targets, preferably aligned with a net-zero ambition for 2050 or sooner and supplement the pledges with tangible targets and plans already for this decade,” said Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping.
“Transparency is key for the transition, and there is no doubt that ship owners and operators will increasingly need to be transparent about climate targets and actions – not only towards regulators but also to live up to expectations from customers, investors, insurance, the greater public – and not least employees,” continued Bo Cerup-Simonsen.
While action is needed from shipowners, regulators also need to step up and implement mandatory reporting requirements of climate-related impacts subject to third-party auditing. Requirements should rely on global standards to increase comparability and avoid creating additional reporting burdens, the MMMCZS recommends.
The analysis shows that the container industry has the highest level of ambition, with 16 of the 30 largest firms in the segment having set emissions targets for a 2050 timeline. This translates to 69% of the total container maritime fleet capacity in owned deadweight tonnage.
Shipping’s roadmap to decarbonization
With 100.000 ships consuming around 300 million metric tons of fuel, p.a. global shipping accounts for about 3% of global carbon emissions. This share will likely increase as other industries tackle climate emissions in the coming decades.
Achieving the long-term decarbonization target requires new fuel types and a systemic change within the industry. Shipping is a globally regulated industry, which provides an opportunity to secure broad-based industry adoption of new technology and fuels.
A coordinated effort within applied research is needed across the entire supply chain to accelerate the development of viable technologies. Industry leaders play a critical role in ensuring that laboratory research is successfully matured into scalable solutions matching the needs of the industry. At the same time, new legislation will be required to enable the transition toward decarbonization.
About the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping
The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping is a not-for-profit, independent research- and development centre working across the energy- and shipping sectors with industry, academia, and authorities. With Partners, the Center explores viable decarbonization pathways, facilitates the development and implementation of new energy technologies, builds confidence in new concepts and their supply chains, and accelerates the transition by defining and maturing viable strategic pathways to the required systemic change. The Center is placed in Copenhagen but works with partners globally.
The Center was founded in 2020 with a start-up donation of DKK 400 million from the A.P. Moller Foundation. Strategic Partners to the Center include Alfa Laval, American Bureau of Shipping, A.P. Moller – Maersk, bp, Cargill, CF Industries, DP World, Equinor, Hapag-Lloyd, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui, NORDEN, NYK Line, Rio Tinto, Royal Caribbean Group, Seaspan Corporation, Siemens Energy, Stolt Tankers, Sumitomo Corporation, Swire Group, Topsoe, TotalEnergies and V.Group.