First Movers Coalition ups pressure for zero emission shipping

Written by Nick Blenkey
President Biden announces First Movers coalition

First Movers Coalition was announced today by President Joe Biden

Another day at the COP26 conference and another signal that the pressure is on shipping to decarbonize—with, or without, IMO beefing up its GHG reduction targets.

Shipping is a key focus area of the First Movers Coalition, a new platform for companies to make purchasing commitments that create new market demand for low and zero carbon fuels and technologies. The coalition was announced today by President Joe Biden and launched by the World Economic Forum in partnership with U.S Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

The First Movers Coalition will work across eight key sectors. Seven of these sectors – steel, cement, aluminum, chemicals, shipping, aviation, and trucking – account for more than a third of global carbon emissions, but do not have cost-competitive energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Founding member companies of the new coalition make a purchasing commitment in at least one of the sectors.

The coalition has established an ambitious commitment for the use of scalable zero-emission fuels in maritime shipping.

Specifically, for maritime carriers, at least 5% of deep-sea shipping will be powered by zero-emission fuels by 2030. The importance of a 2030 “breakthrough” target has been established: an S-curve based analysis suggests that zero emission fuels need to make up 5% of the international shipping fuel mix by 2030 to enable Paris-aligned decarbonization of shipping by 2050.

For cargo owners, at least 10% of the volume of goods shipped internationally will be on ships using zero-emission fuels by 2030; on the way to 100% by 2040, a target that is in line with the recently announced Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels initiative.

Significantly, to qualify under First Movers Coalition commitments as being zero emission, fuels must meet the following criteria:

  • have zero greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis,
  • be sufficiently scalable to decarbonize the entire shipping industry when blended or used as standalones, • address land use and other sustainability concerns, and
  • demonstrate they can be used safely through appropriate training and standards.

The aim is to catalyze adoption of new zero-emission fuels and technologies deemed necessary for full sector decarbonization by 2050.

According to today’s announcement of the creation of the coalition, leading analysis identifies that this goal is most likely to be accomplished with hydrogen-based fuels.

“The First Movers Coalition shipping commitments are consistent with the ambition of the Paris Agreement and fully aligned with the 2040 target and zero-carbon fuel criteria set recently by Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels. We must remember that these new fuels are not yet in commercial use for deep sea shipping, and entire new supply chains need to be built, making these forward-looking commitments truly commendable. We congratulate these corporate climate leaders for demonstrating the power of collective private sector action to decarbonize shipping here at COP26,” said Ingrid Irigoyen, Director of the Aspen Institute Shipping Decarbonization Initiative. “The cargo owner ambition continues to show the vital role that climate leading multinational companies play in driving this transition.”

“By aggregating demand, the First Movers Coalition will drive the uptake of new zero emission technologies and fuels in shipping. A first step is implementation of industrial scale demonstration projects and green corridors to ensure safety, reliability, and sustainability of new technologies across the full value chain. Only with such collaborative efforts can we make zero emission shipping the default choice by 2030,” said Johannah Christensen, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Maritime Forum.

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