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Maritime decarbonisation hub

Decarbonising shipping - the global challenge.

Decarbonising shipping – the global challenge

Climate change – or global warming – is a reality, with people experiencing its effects every day through extreme weather, rises in sea levels and changes in the timing of seasons. Human health is being affected by worsening food security, increased pressure on supplies of clean water, and mass migrations of people seeking safety. Levels of carbon dioxide, a ‘greenhouse gas’ released by burning fossil fuels, are at a record high, driving climate change.

In 2016, the world came together to take action. 196 nations signed the Paris Agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It committed nearly every nation, including all major carbon-emitting countries, to keeping the global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It also committed signatories to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement underpins the transformation of economies from using fossil-based fuels to alternative energy sources and technologies.

The tough challenge for shipping

Shipping produces about 2.9% of the world’s man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, according to a report by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2020. It found shipping emissions rose by 10% between 2012 and 2018.

The IMO had already set an ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050, with a stretch target of a 100% reduction by the same deadline. A study by Lloyd’s Register estimates this 50% cut in absolute emissions is equivalent to a real-world reduction of about 85% in operational CO2 intensity. In other words, ships will have to reduce their output of carbon dioxide by 85% per nautical mile, to take account of increasing numbers of ships, and more activity over coming years. It's a tough challenge for the maritime industry.

A 50% reduction in absolute emissions is equivalent to a real-world reduction of about 85% in operational CO2 intensity.

Lloyd’s Register/UMAS study: ‘Zero-emission vessels: Transition pathways’

Action is needed now

There is considerable uncertainty over how these ambitions will be achieved. The impact of the energy transition will be global, broad and deep. A complete understanding of societal needs and the impact of the change will be required to make the right choices about new energy sources.

Lloyd’s Register’s research has shown that to reach the IMO’s ambition, Zero Emission Vessels (ZEVs) capable of deep-sea, trans-ocean travel will need to be in use by 2030. Although that’s a decade away, time is short. The 2020s will be a vital time for piloting and prototyping new fuels and hybrid propulsion arrangements. Vessels will need to transition from fossil-based fuels to zero carbon energy sources and technologies, while simultaneously increasing efficiency.

The Lloyd’s Register Maritime Decarbonisation Hub is committed to leading shipping safely and sustainably on its journey to meeting the IMO’s 2050 ambition.

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