Global shipping industry makes landmark pledge to reach net zero by 2050

By Climate Champions | July 10, 2023

Last week, on the banks of London’s River Thames, a landmark decision was adopted by member states of the UN’s specialized agency, the International Maritime Organization, that sends the clearest signal yet that the shipping industry is committed to achieving net zero by 2050.

The agreement, reflected in a 2023 IMO GHG Strategy, was adopted at the 80th meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC). It unites all 175 member states in a common objective: to ensure a just and equitable transition to a 20-30% reduction in shipping emissions by 2030, progressing to a 70-80% reduction by 2040.

UN Climate Change High-Level Champions for COP27 and COP28, Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin and H.E Razan Al Mubarak welcomed the commitment as a necessary step towards putting the world on course to keep global warming under 1.5C and ensuring a just and equitable transition. H.E Razan Al Mubarak, in an article this month, underlined the immense potential for resilience and economic growth that the maritime transition can bring to communities worldwide.

The IMO’s GHG strategy:

  1. Sets a level of ambition to keep 1.5C within reach, reducing shipping emissions to net zero by 2050 with ambitious, robust interim targets for 2030 and 2040.
  2. Commits to a lifecycle approach for assessing emissions to avoid shifting emissions from sea to land.
  3. Specifies a clear and rapid timeline for adopting and applying binding regulatory measures.
  4. Makes a commitment that shipping’s green transition will be just and equitable, and leave no one behind.

Over the next seven years, the 2030 target will be met by transitioning 5-10% of marine fuels to zero emission alternatives, in alignment with the Climate Champions 2030 Shipping Breakthrough. Additionally, all ships being ordered from now onwards must be capable of running on zero emission fuels by 2040 if they are to be useful for their full lifespan.

Global mandatory measures and regulations will enter into force in 2027, consisting of a global GHG fuel standard and an economic measure that sets a price on GHG emissions based on the full lifecycle emissions.

Reflecting on the outcome, H.E Razan Al Mubarak, said: “Bringing the voice of non-state actors to the work of the International Maritime Organization shows what is possible through international cooperation, building consensus and working together in addressing the urgency of the climate crisis. The emission targets landed in this strategy, including the 2030 Breakthrough, send a clear signal that shipping is part of the climate solution.”

With the first global stocktake on the horizon at COP28, the resolution provides shipowners, cargo owners, investors and fuel producers alike with the required certainty that the Race to Zero is well and truly on.

For in-depth analysis of the outcome and the 2023 GHG Strategy, Race to Zero member, University College London, has prepared this  report