Maritime Decarbonization

Stefanos N. Roulakis and Vanessa C. DiDomenico

As the international shipping industry prepares to reduce emissions, there are many recent developments that present both obstacles and opportunities that must be explored while preparing to set sail on the challenge.

IMO Timeline and Introduction to Initial Strategy

Shipping is already the most carbon-friendly form of transportation. Despite carrying approximately 90 percent of the world’s goods, shipping only accounts for about 2.9 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While the maritime industry and its regulatory body, the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”), rightly are trying to reduce this number, the outsized role of shipping in the world economy and its relative impact on global emissions should be the starting point of any analysis.

A key aspect in the debate on how to decarbonize centers is between the difference in gross output as opposed to efficiency. The IMO’s strategy contains targets for both types of metrics. The current goal seeks to cut overall greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by at least half by 2050 (using 2008 as a baseline). On the efficiency side, the shipping industry seeks to reduce GHG emissions per transport work by 40 percent in 2030 and 70 percent by 2050.

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