Global shipping is about to be carbon-free

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April 24, 2018

A cargo ship releasing CO2 emissions (Photo courtesy of

The supply chain in the logistics industry has always been plagued by green issues. Although international shipping is already by far the most eco-friendly mode of commercial transport, it is a well-known fact that CO2 emissions from the industry as a whole, which makes up about 3 percent of all global emissions, have been a source of real worry for years now.

For the longest time, supply chain professionals have tried to prioritize green shipping not only because going green is more profitable, but also because a carbon-free shipping industry is certainly the future. The truth is that there was never a single revolutionary idea put in place to turn the shipping industry green- until now.

On Friday 13th, 2018, the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) agreed for the first time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping during the 72nd session held at the company headquarters. The landmark deal was signed at a meeting held at the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London. The participants agreed to adopt the first in a long line of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

The MEPC meets adopt revised G8 Guidelines (Photo courtesy of

The end goal is to decrease GHG emissions from international shipping and completely phase GHG emissions out as quickly and as effortlessly as possible in this century. The plan, according to the levels of ambition identified by the participants, is to considerably reduce annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while, concurrently, exploring different avenues that can phase them out completely.

Until this initial strategy was formulated, the shipping industry is the only sector that did not have a comprehensive climate change plan in place. Cargo ships have played an instrumental role in growing today’s contemporary global economy; about 90 percent of everything that we buy is transported by cargo ships at one point or another. Without them, the economy would not be as vibrant as it is now.

However, despite their utmost importance cargo ships also burn fossil fuels, which contribute considerably to shifting climate patterns and accelerated global warming. Sadly, many cargo ships still rely on “bunker fuel” to operate, which is basically a cheap blend of petroleum that allows cargo ships to transport goods across the continent for next to nothing.

The shipping industry’s continued reliance on high-carbon fuel such as bunker fuel poses a major challenge for all those advocating for a carbon-free future. This new deal advocating for clean shipping will not only help to address the prevalent disinclination to take up meaningful change, but it will also help to set the ball rolling so that advocates of clean shipping can start to ramp up investments into projects that use cleaner technologies that are less debilitating for the ecosystem.

If things continue to remain unchanged, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is the shipping industry’s main regulator, predicts that carbon emissions from shipping could increase drastically by as much as 250 percent by 2050 as the world’s population continues to grow and as global economies keep expanding. At this point, the European Parliament estimates the industry could produce 17 percent of global emissions, up from less than 3 percent today.

For shipping to play its part in combating climate change, all the players in the supply chain need to unite so that global shipping can be radically redesigned so that we can enjoy a carbon-free future in a few decades’ time. Delivering on the promise to decrease GHG emissions from international shipping, however, is easier said than done.


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