Getting to 5%: An action plan for delivering zero-emission fuels in shipping

PolicyFuel and energy

The forthcoming report A Strategy for the Transition to Zero-Emission Shipping, prepared by UMAS for the Getting to Zero Coalition with funding from the Mission Possible Partnership, provides the background to derive the key actors and actions that are needed to enable the sector’s decarbonization. It will be published on 27 October 2021. The action table in this brief builds on this report and the work of the High-Level Climate Champions.

Earlier this year, the Getting to Zero Coalition, UMAS, and the UN High-Level Climate Champions established the importance of 2030 “breakthrough” targets: to enable Paris-aligned decarbonization of shipping by 2050, zero-emission fuels needs to make up 5% of international shipping fuels and 15% of domestic shipping fuels by 2030.

To achieve these targets, the shipping industry will need to combine and accelerate five change levers: technology and supply, demand, financing, policy, and civil society action, as set out in the Marrakesh Partnership Transport Climate Action Pathway.

The implications for shipping are clear

  • Technology and supply: zero-emission ships and zero-emission fuel technology will need to be trialed and demonstrated at large scale by 2025, ensuring operational and safety standards are in place, ultimately encouraging larger supply and bringing the costs down.

  • Financing: approach to ship financing will need to evolve by 2022 with stronger adoption of more stringent Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards by 2025 and a clear risk-sharing framework. Investment structures with longer maturity periods such as green and blue bonds need to be in use by 2025.

  • Policy: policy framework is needed on several levels, with national governments putting in place policies to decarbonize shipping and support first movers in 2022 as well as implementing multiple international zero-carbon shipping routes (“Green Corridors”) by 2025. On the international level, intensified effort is needed to agree on long-term measures including market-based measures, to develop lifecycle assessment guidelines for zero-emission fuels, and to commit to zero emissions on a lifecycle basis before 2050. All of these need to be done by 2025.

  • Demand: freight purchasers need to commit to using decarbonized maritime freight by 2040 and to paying a price premium for the lowest emission services from now.

  • Civil society action: we need a transition approach that is equitable and just – not leaving anyone behind, especially those who are most vulnerable and impacted by climate change such as Least Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. Workers in transitioning segments will need access to upskilling and reskilling to avoid risk of job loss.

Objective: 5% Zero-emission fuels by 2030, 100% by 2045

Figure 1: Objective: 5% Zero-emission fuels by 2030, 100% by 2045
Source: Marrakesh Partnership Climate Action Pathway, Transport, Action Table, 2021

An action plan for achieving 5% zero-emission fuels by 2030

Initial efforts are already taking place, but must be accelerated if the shipping sector is to achieve its 2030 breakthrough. This will not be possible without alignment and collaboration across the entire maritime value chain. Individual efforts of maritime actors need to be coordinated to fully deliver the step change.

We have set out specific near-term actions and milestones, forming a master plan around which businesses and governments can unite. It details what key actors must do and by when to deliver the needed transformation of shipping, creating a shared vision for all players in the maritime value chain and clarifying how efforts of each actor contribute to the whole, therefore increasing confidence and generating greater impact.

The 2020s will be a decisive decade for shipping. It is time for shipping companies, fuel producers, investors and other actors in the shipping ecosystem to turn their ambition into an official commitment by adopting a science-based target and joining the Race to Zero.

Uniting around this master plan to achieve 5% zero-emission fuels by 2030 will help guide decisions, actions, and allow us to monitor the progress of the sector’s transition to zero, demonstrating that the shipping industry is intent on taking a leading role in the just, healthy and resilient transition to a zero carbon world.

This insight brief was prepared by UMAS with funding provided by the Mission Possible Partnership. Thanks to the Boston Consulting Group for their assistance in putting this article together.