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Editorial comment

Decarbonisation is the biggest challenge facing, not just shipping, but wider society as well. How we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and achieve ambitious international targets is a question governments and international institutions are seeking to tackle across the world.

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In the dry bulk industry, the backbone of global shipping, making up around 40% of the global fleet, the impact of decisions made on how we reach net-zero will be most keenly felt.

Action to agree ambitious targets for decarbonisation must be led by discussions at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which faces a crucial period in the run up to next summer, when existing targets will be updated. Frankly, while shipping is the greenest form of commercial transport, the current target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2050 does not go far enough, and we need to see greater ambition.

The UK Chamber of Shipping is working with partners, including countries from across the world, to show why it is imperative that the IMO commits to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the UK has been gripped by political instability in recent weeks, we also need the UK Government, under the new Prime Minister, to be using its diplomatic weight to convince other countries to back more ambitious targets. New targets are due to be announced in the middle of 2023, and not a moment too soon, as investment decisions being made today will impact shipping well into the 2040s.

With no one technology or fuel setting itself apart as the ‘silver bullet’ to decarbonise shipping, it is vital that research and development into new fuels and technologies continues at pace. This important research must sit alongside appropriate financial schemes and carbon pricing mechanisms, in order to incentivise the uptake of sustainable net-zero carbon fuels and technologies.

However, without the successful deployment of infrastructure, such as storage and refuelling facilities for new fuels, shipping will struggle to decarbonise. Shipping companies across the world, especially in dry bulk, where the next destination of a vessel is not always certain, need to have the confidence that investment in new technology and fuel solutions for their vessels will not create challenges for refuelling through a lack of infrastructure. With shipping moving 80% of global trade, we cannot introduce solutions that bring trade routes to a grinding halt.

The coming months present a seismic moment for shipping. We need to seize the challenge presented by climate change and agree bold new targets to reduce carbon emissions. Without these, we are destined to fall short of what is required. It is by combining these new targets with investment in new fuels, technologies, and associated infrastructure that we will be able to achieve the goal of net-zero carbon by 2050.