Who is driving decarbonization?

 

Last summer, we invited Madeline Rose, Climate Campaign Director at Pacific Environment, to discuss the newly released Shady Ships report. This report is the first to quantify the environmental and public health impacts arising from dirty shipping and to make these issues transparent to the public. 

Their main finding is that the 15 largest retail companies in the US are responsible for a vast majority of ocean pollution due to their reliance on fossil fuels for transoceanic shipping. Even more concerning, those major polluting companies do not disclose the true amount of pollution they produce.

About half a year has passed since the report was published and the regulatory framework remains unclear: in November, the International Maritime Organization – the secretive UN agency ruling maritime transport –  decided to postpone the revision of its emissions reduction strategy to the spring of 2023.

However, the Shady Ship report and the subsequent campaigns have already spurred changes in the maritime shipping industry that we would like to highlight.

Last week, the California Air Resources Board approved updates to its Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation aimed at reducing emissions from harbor craft like tugboats and ferries operated near California’s coast to improve public health in nearby communities: short run ferries, which include those traveling less than three nautical miles over a single run, will be required to be fully zero-emission by the end of 2025. By 2035, the amendments are expected to result in an 89 percent reduction in diesel soot (also known as particulate matter) and a 54 percent reduction in nitrogen oxydes. The amendments will also reduce the cancer risk to over 22 million residents who live near the coast and up to 50 miles inland. 

In October, a Los Angeles City Council member introduced a resolution calling on all major retailers to only use zero-emission ships at the ports of San Pedro Bay and to be completely transitioned to zero-emission shipping by 2030. In addition, last month C40 Cities and the ports of Shanghai and Los Angeles convened to establish a Green Shipping Corridor to decarbonize shipping between the largest ports in the United States and China. The key goals of the partnership are to reduce supply chain emissions, improve air quality in adjacent communities, and eventually phase in zero-carbon fueled ships.

Large shipping companies are also moving; a mere month after the Shady Ships report was published, Maersk announced that it would order new vessels which can use zero-carbon fuel. They will have a fleet of twelve vessels ready by 2024 with engines that can run on green methanol. During the One Ocean Summit that occurred in Brest, France in February, Energy Observer presented a plan for a new multipurpose cargo, hybrid ship fueled by wind & liquid hydrogen. This new development will allow for zero-emission shipping without sacrificing transport capacities.

What’s even more encouraging is that cargo owners now recognize they have a role to play and are actually getting involved: at the end of summer, Ship It Zero launched Amazon Day of Action. They secured local TV coverage in Seattle, WA, and Long Beach, CA, and called on Amazon to commit to zero-emission shipping. In the fall of 2021, nine big companies pledged to move their cargo using zero-carbon fuel ships by 2040. Of these nine companies, two of them – Amazon and Ikea – were listed as top polluters in the 15 company list on the Shady Ships report. 

Even more impactful, France Supply Chain and a coalition of 12 European Cargo Owners recently launched a tender, a call to shipping companies to build and operate wind-powered container ships for some of their transatlantic routes between Europe and North America. 

Despite these successes, Madeline Rose warns that there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Global shipping’s 2021 CO2e emissions increased about 5% from 2020. Of course, 2020 had lower emissions due to the global pandemic but 2021 emissions also significantly surpassed 2019 levels. 

In addition, container ship orders were at an all-time high in 2021. There are currently 619 container ships on order for future delivery: of those 619 ordered container ships, 404 are LNG ships, which, despite being fueled by natural gas, are no better either. 

Although using natural gas is cleaner than burning fuel oil, the ship engines leak methane. This is an issue because methane is one of the strongest greenhouse gases and further contributes to global warming. Despite this, the number of LNG ships is expected to double by 2030. This change is the lowest compliance pathway for the ships to comply with the current IMO targets without having to get rid of fossil fuels. 

While regulations are slow to change, cargo owners and  customers can increase pressure on the shipping supply chains by creating a green shipping demand. Customers can choose whether or not to purchase products based on their knowledge of a company’s shipping practices. However, this can only happen if we are educated on the topic, which is one of the main goals of both the Shady Ships report and the Ship It Zero campaigns. 

Even more impactful, in Europe, a coalition of Cargo Owners recently launched a tender, a call to shipping companies to build and operate wind-powered container ships for some of their transatlantic routes between Europe and North America. 

US cargo owners are not required to report Scope 3 emissions from maritime shipping, yet. However, earlier this week, the SEC unveiled a draft rule that requires US listed companies to disclose their Scope 3 greenhouse gases emissions, if they are included in an emission target set by the company.

To which extent will US cargo owners regain ownership of their shipping activity? Will they wait for liners to bring a solution? Or will they grab the opportunity to influence the propulsion mix by requiring more wind, solar & battery?

One Ocean Summit

For a brief moment, Brest, France was the center of the oceanographic world, where experts, government officials, and maritime professionals gathered at the One Ocean Summit to attempt to heighten global ambitions on solving maritime issues and come up with plans for efficient ocean governance. 

This three-day summit, taking place from 9 to 11 February 2022, addressed a multitude of marine challenges such as biodiversity, pollution, and overfishing. From the words of US climate envoy John Kerry, the “the ocean that makes life on Earth possible, produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe – and even that is at risk. The ocean and climate are inextricably linked. They’re one and the same.” 

This summit was attended by government leaders, institutional officials, and business leaders, but what exactly are their plans for the future, and what is at stake?

Our Oceans

Our oceans cover more than 70% of the surface of our planet but are often a sidelined topic during conversations on climate change and biodiversity at major international events. Oceans regulate the climate on Earth which, in turn, determines rainfall, droughts, floods, and stabilizes global temperatures. They are also the world’s largest carbon reservoir: approximately 83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through marine waters. They are a life-support system for all organisms on Earth; however, global oceans are threatened by climate change, pollution, and overexploitation of marine resources and we have already begun to experience the consequences. 

Climate Change

Anthropogenic activity, mainly since the start of the industrial revolution, has caused a major increase in the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. As a result, our atmosphere is trapping more energy from the sun than before. This heat gets absorbed throughout the Earth, including our oceans resulting in higher sea surface temperatures and rising sea levels. A NOAA study has found that global sea levels have gone up 3.4 inches from 1993 to 2019. Sea level rise greatly varies in certain parts of the world though. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact estimates that in South Florida, sea levels will rise another 10-17 inches by 2040. In addition, in some areas of the state tidal flooding has increased 352% since 2000. This reality is shared by many coastal communities throughout the world and threatens to displace millions of people. 

Ocean Pollution

Millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, making up 80% of all marine debris found. These plastics, which mostly enter the oceans from coasts and rivers, are ingested by or entangle marine organisms causing severe injuries and oftentimes death. Ocean pollution also includes eutrophication, which is the process of accumulation of nutrients, such as nitrogen, as a result of air pollution. This nutrient overload causes algae blooms which kill marine life, severely impacting oceanic ecosystems and biodiversity.

Exploitive Fishing

Overfishing creates an imbalance that disturbs the global food web. It not only affects marine life that is becoming dangerously over depleted but also the populations of species that rely on marine life for food. Vulnerable species include sea turtles and corals. Currently, less than two percent of global oceans are set aside as marine reserves. Evidently, there are not enough protective measures in place to prevent ocean exploitation. 

These issues were discussed in depth during the One Ocean Summit. As a result, there were four important initiatives that were highlighted: 

  1. To Protect Marine Resources and Biodiversity

30 new countries have joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. There are now 84 countries that are committed to the goal of protecting 30% of land and marine areas under national jurisdiction by 2030

14 countries attending the summit have committed to fighting against illegal fishing. Six of the fourteen ratified the Cape Town Agreement of the IMO on safety standards for fishing vessels. In addition, two countries will ratify the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, which will allow for better regulation of fishing activities.

  1. To Combat Ocean Pollution

The French Development Agency and the European Investment Bank launched the Clean Oceans Initiative, which will help reduce plastic pollution in the ocean. These organizations have also provided 4 billion euros in funding by 2025 to fund projects that will reduce plastic waste. In addition, Rodolphe Saadé, chief executive of the shipping company CMA CGM, has announced that they will not transport any plastic waste aboard its ships anymore. 

  1. To Combat Climate Change

Ocean-based solutions to mitigate climate change were a highlight during this summit and were discussed deeply by many Heads of State. Large Ocean States such as Fiji, Tonga, and Palau expressed their concerns about the consequences of sea-level rise and emphasized the importance of coastal ecosystems conservation. In addition, the structuring of a blue carbon market was mentioned during the summit. This market would give an economic valuation of marine and coastal ecosystem services. 

  1. To Improve Ocean Governance

UNESCO has announced that at least 80% of the seabed will be mapped by 2030, compared to 20% currently, with the support of its Member States and the private sector. This is important because, in the words of UNESCO’s Director-General, “How can we succeed in protecting the ocean when we know so little about it?” Having a better understanding of our oceans will help us identify areas that need to be safeguarded and improve ocean governance.

 

The One Ocean Summit is just the beginning of the global response that is required for ocean protection. This summit placed oceans on international political agendas by highlighting its role in climate and social balances. Government leaders understand that we are obligated to preserve our oceans not only to maintain ecosystem balance but also for human prosperity and health. 

 

Nov 16. 2021 – Conference at Webb Institute

Demographics in a nutshell

237 persons, from 22 countries, attended the conference through the day. 
Average attendance – 3 hours 40 minutes 
135 attendees are based in the US, coming from 27 states