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Late decarbonisation of shipping comes with a high cost

21 October 2016

Shipping needs to start its decarbonisation imminently, that is the conclusion in the recent report "Low carbon Pathways 2050" released by Lloyds Register (LR) and the cross industry research project Shipping in Changing Climates (SCC).

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the organisation responsible for the international regulation of shipping, will hold its 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in the end of October. An important topic is the reduction of GHG emissions from ships and the report from Lloyds register and SCC aims to contribute towards these discussions.

In a press release, Katharine Palmer, LR’s Environment and Sustainability Manager, says:

“There are many issues to debate as the industry tries to consider what the strategy might be for handling the inevitable and uncertain changes ahead. What is clear is that any future regulation needs to provide the right incentive to drive the change needed and we hope that business strategies and consistent policies can be combined to reduce shipping emissions.”

Three future scenarios for the period 2015–2050 were identified to demonstrate varying options for decarbonisation. The first, High Hydrogen, considers the availability of hydrogen, which is used in fuel cell technology, to demonstrate what can be achieved through technology and innovation. The second, High Bio, assumes a mid-range market penetration of biofuels in the shipping industry, and the third, High offsetting, considers the impact of a market-based mechanism. These three future scenarios were compared to a business as usual scenario with existing regulatory commitments.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Shipping will need to start its decarbonisation imminently – as stringency increases over time, increasingly high-cost mitigation steps are required. The later we leave decarbonisation, the more rapid and potentially disruptive it will be for shipping.
  • All are ‘possible’ options for achieving absolute reductions of a scale and timeliness consistent with the Paris Agreement.
  • A substitute for fossil fuel will still be required as energy efficiency improvements alone will not be sufficient in the medium to long term.
  • Energy storage in batteries and renewable energy sources will have important roles to play, but are likely to still leave a requirement for a liquid fuel source. 
  • Additional regulations that may be developed for other emissions need to be considered, for example; methane, black carbon and particulate matter.
  • Technological and operational characteristics are just some of the considerations that need to be taken into account.
The total operational CO2 emission trajectories are presented in Figure 3 for the ship types included in this analysis (wet and dry bulk and container shipping). Source: Lloyd's Register

The report to be found here.

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