Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipper, has sent shockwaves through the maritime sector by promising to deliver net zero emissions of carbon by 2050.
Making the announcement yesterday evening, Maersk said achieving the goal will mean developing commercially viable carbon-neutral vessels by 2030, alongside the rollout of other carbon-cutting technologies.
The pledge represents a huge shift in thinking for global shipping, much of which is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels and lacking a clear route to decarbonisation.
Maersk is already one of the most progressive companies in the industry, having cut its emissions by 46 per cent below 2007 levels, nine per cent more than the industry average.
However, achieving carbon neutrality in little more than three decades still represents a major challenge, and will require “significant” investment from Maersk, according to chief operating officer Søren Toft.
“The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” he said in a statement.
“The next five to 10 years are going to be crucial,” he added. “We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonised solutions. Over the last four years, we have invested around $1bn and engaged 50+ engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficient solutions. Going forward we cannot do this alone.”
Søren Toft is calling on other industry heavyweights to start collaborating on research and development that can enable carbon neutral shipping, adding that from next year Maersk plans to launch an “open and collaborative dialogue with all possible parties”.
The shipping sector has been notoriously slow to respond to the threat of rising emissions. One of only two global industries not included under the Paris Agreement, it took the shipping sector until April this year to finally agree a sector-wide climate plan after years of negotiation.
But at International Maritime Organisation (IMO) talks in London this October, negotiators failed to thrash out any detail to back up their pledge to cut emissions 50 per cent by 2050, sparking criticism from green businesses and campaigners by agreeing only to tackle the issue afresh at the next meeting in May.