If the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth largest emitter in the world.
It is with this in mind that a coalition of nations joined together to create The Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors during COP26.
What is a green shipping corridor?
The signatories of the declaration committed themselves to develop technology, expertise and port infrastructure that will allow certain international shipping routes to go zero-carbon, as part of a strategy to decarbonise the entire industry by 2050.
Routes discussed include iron trades between Australia and Japan, container trades from Asia into Europe, and car carrier trades from Asia into Pacific Rim ports in the U.S. Not mentioned, but an obvious category would be big retailers chartering containerships on a bespoke basis (from Asia into Europe but also additionally into the States).
However, participation in the “corridors”, would be on a voluntary basis; fossil fueled ships could still travel along the specified trade routes- composed of origins and destinations in signatory countries.
It’s important to note that the corridors are simply a concept at this point, and more work is needed to secure regulatory frameworks, incentives and possible fines to ensure goals are upheld.
How is business getting involved?
Over 200 businesses from across the shipping value chain have committed to scaling and commercializing zero-emission shipping vessels and fuels by 2030 and have called on governments to create regulations and infrastructure to enable a smooth transition to zero-emission shipping by 2050.
The International Chamber of Shipping, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the UN Global Compact have also made pledges in an effort to help workers transition to a zero-emission shipping industry, including learning new skills and creating new jobs.
What is the Buyer's Commitment?
Nine big brands including Amazon, Ikea, Michelin, Unilever, Patagonia have made the commitment that they will only buy zero carbon freight from 2040.
What could the future hold?
The declaration could spell big changes for the industry or it could all chalk up to a lot of big talk. Madeline Rose, with green group Pacific Environment, said "the Clydebank framework leaves room for delay tactics and fossil fuel loopholes". She continues, "we urge partner countries and ports to act quickly to set immediate, interim and ultimately mandatory benchmarks to phase out all fossil fuel ship pollution along their shared corridors."
From a business perspective, Christian Ingerslev, chief executive of Maersk Tankers, which has over 210 oil products tankers under commercial management, said Maersk has spent over $30 million over the last three years to reduce their carbon emissions through digital solutions. "We need governments to not only back the regulatory push but also to help create the zero emissions fuels at scale. The only way this is going to work is to set a market-based measure through a carbon tax."
More actionable results could potentially be decided in the 77th gathering of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), held at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London this week, where the shipping industry will work to get a closer understanding of its long term green targets. MEPC 75 and 76 resulted in low ambition outcomes, with ambitious countries being in the minority. However, at MEPC 76 only about five countries were the difference between minority and majority.
It will be critical to see if the countries that had pushed hard for ambitious targets during COP26, remain determined and start to commit to actionable results at IMO MEPC77.
William Fairclough, managing director at Hong Kong shipping line Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings, explained “greenwashing will not be tolerated by lenders, consumers, customers, etc. From what I hear this is a major step forward from Paris where the corporate world were slight deers in the headlights. Companies will leave this COP realising not just that their competitors are serious about it, so they don’t have to worry about putting their head too far above the parapet, but fearful that their competitors are going to do it faster than them and leave them behind,” Fairclough said, stressing: “Fear is a much stronger motivating factor than greed.”
Ultimately, there is a rising tide for climate action within the sector and sustainability commitments will be a key factor in standing out and retaining customers moving forward. The question is, will business and governments work together to meet demand with actionable results within the timeframes they’ve committed to? As always, at Borderless360 we’ll be monitoring the situation closely as it unfolds, letting you know what the possible future changes could mean for you and your business.
Borderless360: Committed to change
Borderless360 is committed to providing solutions that protect and improve the environment so that we can contribute towards a more connected sustainable planet. Our sustainability strategy harnesses carbon neutral shipping (South Pole Certified), local fulfillment, lower-emission transport options and smart solutions such as order orchestration and direct injection. You can read more about our sustainability commitment on our website here.