Q&A on Zero Emission Shipping
OWhat does Stand.earth’s vision for zero-emission shipping look like?
As a founding member of the Ship It Zero coalition calling on consumer giants Walmart, Target, Amazon and IKEA to transition to zero-emission freight shipping by 2030, Stand.earth regularly receives questions, such as “What is our vision for zero- what does the shipping industry look like? Is it possible? What technologies already exist? How long will it take?”
Here are our answers to some of your most pressing questions.
What is Ship It Zero?
Ship It Zero is a coalition led by Pacific Environment and Stand.earth aimed at pushing some of the world’s largest retailers – Walmart, Target, Amazon and IKEA – towards 100% zero emissions shipping this decade.
In July 2021, the Ship It Zero released its Shady Ships report, revealing that just 15 companies are responsible for emitting millions of tons of pollution by importing their goods into the United States on fossil fuel-powered ships. It was the first study to quantify the environmental and public health impacts of some of America’s largest retailers’ reliance on offshore manufacturing and fossil-fueled transoceanic shipping.
In November 2021, the Ship It Zero released its Shady Routes report, taking an in-depth look at four major retail companies that import goods into the United States – Walmart, Target, Amazon and IKEA – and mapping their often hidden relationships with consumers. fossil fuel freight carriers that they hire to transport their goods. The report shows the routes favored by the four companies, the emissions impacts of those routes, and how the ongoing cargo transportation backlog has burdened US port communities with rising pollution rates.
Why should the shipping industry clean up its climate pollution?
The transoceanic freight transport market has grown over the past decades and the pandemic has accelerated the trend of shipping goods purchased online. Around 90% of global trade is transported by sea, and current business-as-usual scenarios project emissions to increase by up to 50% from 2018 levels. Every merchant ship in service today runs on fossil fuels.
The global shipping industry accounts for 3% of global climate emissions, more than global air transport. If maritime transport were a country, it would be the sixth largest climate polluter in the world. But since shipping traded out of the United Nations Paris Agreement, the push to cut emissions in the industry has been slower than in other sectors. Although the International Maritime Organization has noted that increasing vessel size and operational improvements to create better fuel efficiency have led to a decrease in emissions intensity, absolute annual emissions continue to increase.
How can companies decarbonize their shipping?
Right now, companies can take immediate action to require cargo carriers to slow down their ships and incorporate wind-assisted propulsion, which would reduce emissions. These companies can also immediately invest and engage in zero-emission shipping, which will help accelerate private and public sector investment, development and production in zero-emission shipping.
Additionally, companies should leverage other measures such as effective route planning, prioritizing contracts with carriers that go to ports with shore power, and using carriers engaged in other efficiency measures, such as hull cleaning, advanced coatings and air lubrication.
Although not a zero emissions solution, freight carriers can also reduce emissions in the short term by switching to cleaner fuels like marine gas oil (MGO) rather than heavy fuel oil (HFO ).
Beyond these changes, companies should also advocate for zero-emissions shipping by requiring their carriers to quickly start phasing in zero-emissions vessels from 2024, when these vessels are expected to be available.
Some of the interesting zero-emission shipping trials currently underway include: the world’s first all-electric container ship that will transport fertilizer between Norwegian ports; designs for a liquid hydrogen cargo ship; a small electric freighter that will soon begin trials in the Pacific Ocean; a hydrofoling freighter that would run on fuel cells and green hydrogen, and the recent approval of a high-powered fuel cell concept.
What is a zero emission solution and/or a zero emission fuel?
Zero-emission solutions companies need to move towards include wind-assisted propulsion, electric/battery power, and green hydrogen fuels (NOT blue hydrogen). Where appropriate, local production and storage of zero-emission fuels around ports is also necessary to support green and thriving port economies.
When analyzing ship emissions, the Ship It Zero coalition looks at the full life cycle of those emissions, from well to wake, not just tailpipe emissions. This means that we do not support the shipping industry‘s proposed transition from heavy fuel oil to another fossil fuel source such as liquefied natural gas or LNG.
A January 2020 report commissioned by Stand.earth examined the lifecycle GHG emissions of marine fuels, including a previously poorly understood source of climate emissions from LNG-powered ships – unintentional releases of super climate pollutant methane from ship engines, called “underpants methane.” The report found that using LNG could actually be worse than business as usual for the climate.
This is a far cry from claims by the shipping industry that LNG should be viewed as an alternative fuel that would help “smooth” the path to a zero-emissions future.
What, if anything, have Walmart, Target, Amazon, and IKEA done on zero-emissions shipping?
Since launching the Ship It Zero campaign, Amazon and IKEA have taken several positive steps toward zero-emission shipping. Notably, Walmart and Target are missing from these ads.
In November 2021, during the annual United Nations climate change conference, COP26, Amazon joined the First Movers Coalition to help commercialize emerging technologies to decarbonize heavy industries, including shipping, and is committed to transporting 10% of its freight on zero-emission vessels by 2030.
Also at COP26, governments and CEOs launched the Clydebank Declaration to establish green shipping corridors among some of the busiest shipping lanes. In response to the announcement, the Ship It Zero coalition called on Amazon, IKEA, Walmart and Target to help drive private sector investment through their commitments to zero emissions shipping.
And in October 2021, Amazon and IKEA helped launch coZEV, a retailer-led initiative to remove 100% of products from fossil-fueled ocean freighters by 2040. Ship It Zero called Amazon’s 2040 commitment of “historic but too weak” as a coalition. demands a movement on zero-emission freight transport this decade.
What role do governments and shipping companies like Maersk play?
Retail giants like Walmart, Target, Amazon, and IKEA have close relationships with fossil-fuel cargo carriers. Some of the world’s biggest companies, like Denmark-based Maersk, are accelerating their climate ambitions by announcing plans to achieve net zero climate emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than the company‘s initial climate pledge. Maersk is also the first shipping company to join Amazon’s climate pledge. The Swiss company MSC has also announced its intention to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
In April 2022, five European ports announced that they would partner with Maersk on a Green Maritime Corridor in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea. Maersk also announced plans to tackle air pollution in ports by installing hundreds of offshore charging stations to allow ships to run on electricity instead of fossil fuels while waiting outside ports. .
Governments can also play a crucial role in the transition to zero-emission shipping. The ports of Los Angeles and Shanghai have announced plans to develop a Trans-Pacific Green Transportation Corridor, though the Ship It Zero coalition has expressed concern over the use of the term “low carbon” and warned against it. the use of LNG.
What can consumers do?
As a (likely) consumer of one or more of these large retail companies playing an outsized role in climate change through their fossil fuel-powered shipping, the most important thing you can do is let people know to those companies that you think zero-emissions shipping is important.
Retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon and IKEA need to feel the public pressure to act. You can sign our petition here calling on Target to clean up its act.