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COP26 in Glasgow: Shipping to tighten its climate-protection targets – German Shipowners’ Association one of the drivers behind proposal

Alfred Hartmann, President of the German Shipowners’ Association

Strives for climate neutrality already by 2050 / International Chamber of Shipping subits proposal to IMO

In the run-up to the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, the global shipping industry has sent a clear signal via its umbrella organisation, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). Shipping is urgently calling for another significant tightening of the climate targets, which the member states of IMO had set for in its decarbonisation strategy. “Our industry aims to be climate-neutral already by 2050,” said Alfred Hartmann, President of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR). The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has submitted to the London-based IMO a corresponding proposal, which the 175 member states are to discuss for the first time this November.

The VDR representing one of the largest container ship fleets in the world, is also one of the largest members of the ICS, which itself represents 80 per cent of global shipping. “German shipowners have an important and leading role to play in maritime climate protection. They want to lead by example, we therefore not only support the tightening of the climate targets for shipping, but have also had a hand in defining this milestone ourselves,” Hartmann explains.

The IMO assessed that global shipping, which carries 90 per cent of goods transported worldwide, is currently responsible for about 2 percent of all worldwide CO2emissions. The UN specialized agency already adopted clear climate targets for shipping back in 2018, making it one of the first industries to have such goals. Those targets call for reducing its total CO2 emissions by half by 2050. “Climate protection can no longer be postponed, as the most recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also shows,” Hartmann said. “The shipping industry is taking this upon itself and is now setting course on its own to already be climate-neutral by 2050. We hope that all parties along the maritime transport chain, but especially the IMO member states, will lend us their full support with this major challenge.”

With its proposal, shipping is acknowledging the urgent need to speed up the timetables for decarbonisation. “Our call to the IMO is an unambiguous signal that we, as the shipping industry, are proactively picking up the pace now”, the VDR President continued. If the IMO were to adopt a net zero target, it would send the strong signal desired by the industry as well as by energy suppliers, shipbuilders and engine manufacturers so that investments in green fuels and technologies can be accelerated and scaled up.

The VDR President stressed once again that optimising vessels and their operation will not suffice to achieve climate neutrality in maritime shipping, but that a revolution in fuels was needed – both in terms of developing them and making them globally available. “The problem fundamentally isn’t the engine; it’s the fuel,” he said. The notion of phasing out combustion engines is not feasible for shipping, he continued, adding that battery or fuel cell propulsion systems could only be used for ferry services near coastlines and not for long voyages. “In our view, it remains an open question whether methanol, ammonia or other fuel produced from green hydrogen will power ships in the future,” Hartmann said. “In addition, all players along the logistics chain must be held accountable. Focusing exclusively on the ship will miss the point.”

“To achieve our ambitious goal, we will need financial support and a comprehensive funding structure at the global level – from the IMO and the EU, but also from the new federal government in Germany,” the VDR President added, concluding that: “Together, we must press ahead with researching and developing marketable alternative fuels. As an industry, we are prepared to pay a charge per tonne of fuel – we have also submitted this proposal to the IMO. This should make it clear to even the last critic just how serious we are about climate protection.”

This weekend in Glasgow, the global shipping industry plans to gather on the sidelines of COP26 for an ICS-organised decarbonisation conference. “Shaping the Future of Shipping” will bring together prominent figures from shipping, climate protection, the energy sector as well as policymakers next Saturday to discuss how climate-protection in the industry can be advanced even more quickly. Among those from Germany who will be participating in the conference will be Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen.