Sustainable fuels: What shipping can learn from aviation

Ship at sea with shipping containers

The global economy relies on the maritime shipping industry – ships transport roughly 90% of world trade and accounts for three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more CO2 than all but five countries. But the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels is taking a heavy toll on the environment. Shipping accounts for three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Without urgent climate action, these emissions are set to at least double by 2050.

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Shipping needs a plan for sustainable fuels

National leaders within the UN’s International Maritime Organization have committed to reducing GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050, and acknowledge that to meet this target the sector must wean off from fossil fuels and take on alternative fuels.

Environmental Defense Fund and University Maritime Advisory Services examined this issue, and found that the IMO needs to look no further than another UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, which has experience designing a sustainable fuels framework for its market-based climate program, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

Aviation provides a blueprint for the IMO

In a new report [PDF], EDF and UMAS outline how ICAO’s experience with Sustainable Aviation Fuels could serve as a blueprint for the IMO as it develops its own rules on low and zero-emission fuels. The report identifies areas where the IMO can replicate the work done by ICAO, saving both time and resources. It also shows the potential shortcomings in ICAO’s methodology, highlighting areas where shipping should take a different approach.

The IMO doesn’t need to start from scratch. Designing the sustainable fuels framework for CORSIA was a lengthy and difficult process for ICAO. The IMO should benefit from all the work that has been done by its aviation counterpart.

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