Reaching net zero emissions from the shipping sector is technically and financially possible by mid century

Reaching net-zero carbon emissions from the shipping sector is technically and financially possible by 2060 according to the shipping Sectoral Focus published today by the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC).

This Sectoral Focus presents in more detail the underlying analysis on shipping decarbonization that fed into the ETC’s integrated report Mission Possible: Reaching net-zero carbon emissions from harder-to-abate sectors by mid-century.

Emissions from shipping currently amount to circa 0.9Gt CO2 accounting for almost 3% of total global emissions, but, under a business as usual scenario, they could grow to almost 1.7Gt by 2050.

Demand for shipping is expected to keep increasing with global economic growth, although some new economic trends, like the return of some industrial activities to developed economies or the expected decrease in international shipping of coal, oil and gas as the economic systems are decarbonized, might alter this upward trend. Shipping appears to be the most difficult transport mode to decarbonize, because of the high cost of low-carbon technologies – estimated cost per tonne of abated CO2 between US$150 and US$350 – and of the transition challenges created by long asset replacement cycles and by the fragmented and international nature of the industry.

In the long term, ammonia used either in internal combustion engines or in fuel cells is likely to be the most cost-effective zero-carbon fuel option, especially for long distances, while some short-haul segments of the fleet could switch to electric motors (combined with batteries or hydrogen fuel cells). However, these technologies are unlikely to scale up before the 2030s-2040s, which might call for a range of transitional measures enabling some short-term emissions reduction.

The ETC provides the fact base for industry groups and private companies to develop roadmaps, collaborations and projects aiming for net-zero carbon emissions in their sectors. It also encourages businesses across multiple sectors to question their procurement practices and make commitments to buying “green” products and services.
The members of the Energy Transitions Commission are committed to achieving a net-zero carbon economy by mid-century. They are convinced that succeeding in that historic endeavor would not only limit the harmful impact of climate change, but would also drive prosperity and deliver important local environmental benefits.

At the launch of Mission Possible Lord Adair Turner, co-chair of the ETC said, “This report sets out an optimistic but completely realistic message – we can build a zero-carbon economy with a minor cost to economic growth. We should now commit to achieving this by 2060 at the latest, and put in place the policies and investments required to deliver it.”

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