London decarbonisation debate questions IMO targets

Shipping got plenty of insight into its potential zero-carbon future yesterday at an event organised by the UK Chamber of Shipping featuring lobbyists, politicians, shipowners, green tech experts and NGOs.

UK maritime minister Nusrat Ghani (pictured) opened the special decarbonising maritime event, telling delegates how vital it will be that serious progress is made at the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) which will meet in a couple of months at the IMO in London.

Ghani stressed: “Decarbonisation of shipping is a top priority for our new government.”

The maritime minister said that with the UK also hosting COP26, the UN’s major annual climate change conference, this year the spotlight will be on the IMO showing that shipping is keeping pace with other industries with other sectors. 

Also speaking at the event was Morna Cannon, head of maritime technology and green growth at the UK’s department of transport, who said the new government voted in last month would be pushing ahead with plans set in place via the previous administration to make the country net zero carbon-wise by 2050, something that will also count for shipping. 

“There is no political will for any sliding on those targets,” Cannon said, adding: “This year is a critical year to understand what will be needed to get to those targets.”

Also speaking at yesterday’s event was Aoife O’Leary, the shipping director at the Environmental Defense Fund. 

She told delegates that newbuilds hitting the water by 2030 will need to be zero-carbon and plans mooted last month by a host of shipping associations for a $5bn environmental R&D fund would not be sufficient to decarbonise the sector. The IMO approved 50% cut in emissions by 2050 compared to 2008 levels fell far too short of what was required, O’Leary argued.

Speaking with Splash after the event, O’Leary elaborated on her ideas. 

“The science is clear that really the goal should not be at least 50% reduction in emissions by 2050, but actually 100% if we are to meet the Paris Agreement goals,” O’Leary said. “It will be very difficult to achieve but can be done – the technologies exist and should be deployed immediately. Therefore, I think an R&D fund is a nice idea but the ambition really needs to be increased in terms of the price, a link to reducing actual emissions and what the money will be spent on – not just R&D but also deployment and the building of alternative fuel supply across the world.”

The event, held in conjunction with the British Ports Association, featured many more presentations from academics, class and tech providers. 

Providing some levity towards the end of the event, one delegate stood up during a Q&A session and said: “Does someone here have Elon Musk’s mobile number?”


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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