CO2-neutral by 2050: Shipping is setting itself ambitious climate targets

CO2 neutral by 2050
Shipping is setting itself ambitious climate targets

Worldwide shipping is essential for trade, but at the same time anything but climate-friendly. The shipping companies are now accelerating and do not want to emit any more CO2 by 2050. The problem: Alternatives to fossil fuels are still in short supply in the industry.

The international shipping industry wants to tighten its climate targets significantly. Instead of halving the emissions of the climate-damaging gas carbon dioxide by 2050, as previously targeted by the World Shipping Organization IMO, the industry is now striving to avoid emitting any additional net CO2 into the atmosphere by then. “Our industry wants to be climate-neutral as early as 2050,” said the President of the Association of German Shipowners (VDR), Alfred Hartmann.

The World Shipowners Association (ICS) submitted a corresponding proposal to the IMO in London, an organization of the UN, on the initiative of the German shipowners. “Climate protection can no longer be postponed, as the latest report by the International Climate Council (IPCC) confirms,” ​​said Hartmann. “We hope that all participants in the maritime transport chain, but also the states in particular, will provide us with comprehensive support in this major task.”

The shipping association hopes that this initiative will send a signal to energy suppliers, shipbuilders and engine manufacturers to invest more in “green” drive technologies and fuels. Optimizations in the construction and operation of ships were not enough. Rather, a “revolution in fuels” is needed in terms of development and availability. “Basically, the problem is not the engine, but the fuel,” emphasized VDR President Hartmann.

Ideas are there, nothing is ready for the market yet

The problem: unlike cars, container ships cannot cover long distances with battery power. A wide range of alternative drive concepts and fuels are being discussed in the maritime industries. In addition to hydrogen and ammonia, the focus is also on so-called e-fuels – for example, methanol, the combustion of which releases CO2, but the production of which binds massive amounts of CO2, creating a neutral cycle.

However, all alternatives have one thing in common: Nothing is ready for the market and available on a large scale for broad practical use. For this reason, a shipowner who orders a ship can currently only choose between diesel propulsion or the also fossil liquefied petroleum gas.

According to the IMO, shipping, which transports around 90 percent of all goods worldwide, is responsible for more than 2 percent of all CO2 emissions. The industry is also under pressure because the EU wants to tighten the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Commission’s “Fit for 55” package, these should fall by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. By 2050, no more climate-damaging greenhouse gases should be emitted in the Union.

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