Deployment of existing technologies could make it nearly possible to decarbonize global shipping by 2035, according to a new report from the OECD’s International Transport Forum (ITF).
Four different decarbonization pathways examined for the study would reduce the industry’s CO2 emissions between 82 per cent and 95 per cent below the level currently projected for 2035. The report found that a combination of alternative fuels and renewable energy could largely produce the required results.
Advanced biofuels, such as those made from plant-based sugars and oils, are already being produced in small quantities. These would be further complemented by the introduction of other natural and synthetic fuels, including methanol, ammonia and hydrogen. Wind-assisted propulsion could lead to further reductions, alongside battery-powered ships for use on shorter routes.
Technological measures to improve energy efficiency could also be responsible for a significant portion of emissions reductions. Options which have already attained a degree of market maturity include hull design improvements, air lubrication and bulbous bows.
Finally, the study suggests that operational improvements — such as slower ship speeds, smoother port coordination and the use of larger, more efficient vessels — will play an important role in decarbonizing shipping.
In light of these findings, ITF has recommended that the industry sets out transparent and ambitious emissions-reduction targets, which are backed by comprehensive policy measures. It also urged relevant authorities to offer financial incentives to speed up decarbonization.
“Certainty about the desirable decarbonization pathway for shipping will help drive change,” says Olaf Merk, ports and shipping expert at ITF. "Clear guidance from governments is therefore essential to accelerate the transition towards zero-carbon shipping.”