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How We Can Reduce Emissions from the Shipping Industry?

Published by WEF in collaboration with Project Syndicate. Written by José María Figueres.

The global shipping industry's annual greenhouse-gas emissions total more than one billion tons. Reducing them is critical in the fight against climate change.

Image by REUTERS/Benoit Tessier, World Economic Forum


Former President of Costa Rica José María Figueres writes that shrinking emissions in the future largely depends on what governments do now. This month, delegates from governments around the world are meeting (virtually) for a crucial, albeit under-the-radar, climate summit at the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO). The topic is how to decarbonize the global shipping industry, which accounts for over 80% of world trade and more than one billion tons of greenhouse-gas emissions per year – more than any but the top-five emitting countries.

The global shipping industry's annual greenhouse-gas emissions total more than one billion tons

This massive source of emissions cannot be ignored. Our fossil-fuel addiction is having a disastrous impact on the planet, particularly on our oceans. Increased heat and acidity, melting sea ice, and decreasing oxygen levels are wiping out coral reefs, threatening marine life, and undermining the ocean’s ability to function as a key ecosystem and climate regulator. Considering that every second breath we take comes from the ocean, our own health is directly linked to that of this natural system.



Where we should start?

1. If governments can get their act together and adopt tough CO2 regulations, shipowners will have no shortage of options for meeting the new targets.


2. Clean shipping offers a triple win: In addition to shrinking the burden of air pollution, it also reduces hefty oil-import bills and boosts inward investment to national renewable-energy sectors.


3. As with so much else in the climate debate, the real obstacle to achieving a sustainable future is not technology, but politics. If governments can finally agree to set tough emissions regulations for all the world’s ships at the IMO this year, they will have charted a course for a cleaner, greener global trade system, powered by abundant renewable energy. That would be good for the planet, the ocean, and humanity.

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Read the full article from WEF.