Leading cargo owners commit to “zero by 2040” target

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Posted on October 21, 2021

Amazon, Ikea and Unilever are among a group of leading cargo owners that have committed to progressively switch all of their ocean freight to vessels powered by zero-carbon fuels by 2040. Along with Brooks Running, Frog Bikes, Inditex, Michelin, Patagonia and Tchibo, they are the first signatories to a 2040 ambition statement facilitated by Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV).

The coalition is an initiative of the nonprofit Aspen Institute which says the ambition statement “sends an important demand signal to the maritime value chain and bunker fuel producers that freight customers want zero-carbon shipping and they expect the industry to rapidly accelerate its decarbonization efforts in the years ahead. It also signals increased interest by consumer goods companies and retailers to work collaboratively, deploy their capacities for innovation, and drive economies of scale to foster an economically viable marketplace for zero-carbon shipping.”

“The coZEV network is changing the conversation about climate solutions in maritime shipping—and beyond,” said Dan Porterfield, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “Maritime shipping, like all sectors of the global economy, needs to decarbonize rapidly if we are to solve the climate crisis, and multinational companies will be key actors in catalyzing a clean energy transition in shipping. We applaud the coZEV 2040 Ambition Statement signatories for their leadership, and we urge other cargo owners, value chain actors, and governments to join forces with us.”

“The coZEV initiative represents an historic step in the fight against climate change, with its bold ambition to harness corporate climate leadership to accelerate decarbonization of the global maritime shipping industry,” said Ingrid Irigoyen, Director of the Aspen Institute Shipping Decarbonization Initiative, which facilitates the coZEV effort. “Maritime shipping has long been a major producer of climate and air pollution, and attempts to transition away from fossil fuels have faced significant hurdles, including a perceived lack of freight customer demand that has stifled investment and scalability of potential solutions. By setting an aggressive target today, a group of leaders is changing the conversation. And this is just the start, we expect this movement among climate leading companies to grow rapidly. This will allow us to drive economies of scale, innovation, and a surge of confidence among investors and value-chain actors that there is a business opportunity in doing the right thing.”

“We are thrilled to co-launch this much needed initiative aimed to help switch ocean freight to vessels powered by zero-carbon fuels,” said Edgar Blanco, Director, Net-Zero Carbon at Amazon. “We look forward to working together with the Aspen Institute and other companies to scale up innovative climate solutions to decarbonize maritime shipping, which will help us meet The Climate Pledge, a commitment to reach net-zero carbon by 2040. The time to act is now and we welcome other cargo owner companies who want to lead on addressing climate change to join us in collaboration.”

“We need to speed up the transformation towards zero emission ocean shipping. By collaborating with like-minded partners, companies, and organizations across the value chain we can create strong movements. Therefore, we have today signed the ambition statement ‘Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels,’” says Elisabeth Munck af Rosenschöld Sustainability Manager Supply Chain Operations at IKEA. “It’s an important stepping-stone to manifest the commitment to decarbonize ocean shipping. With this ambition statement we want to demonstrate the determination to reach set targets and instill confidence amongst all stakeholders across the ocean shipping industry on the direction of our common decarbonizing journey ahead.”

“Unilever has committed to achieving net zero emissions throughout our global value chain by 2039. With logistics and distribution accounting for 15% of our total greenhouse gas footprint, we’re committed to working with partners and other companies to accelerate the transition to cleaner transport options,” said Michelle Grose, Head of Logistics at Unilever. “The next few years offer exciting and important opportunities for harnessing technology and innovation in the shipping industry, and there’s really no time to lose. Working with the Aspen Institute and collaborating with other large maritime freight users as part of the coZEV network, we look forward to accelerating the decarbonization of the maritime industry and working towards our joint commitment of zero emission shipping.”

While sending demand signals for zero-carbon shipping is essential to kick-start this transition, companies working with coZEV also recognize that market forces alone will not bring these solutions to scale. For this reason, signatories to the 2040 ambition statement are also calling on policymakers around the world to take swift and ambitious action to advance maritime shipping decarbonization—in their domestic, regional, and international leadership capacities. Currently, the International Maritime Organization is working under a draft greenhouse gas strategy for shipping that only requires the sector to reduce its absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008.

WELCOME, BUT TOO WEAK?

Climate advocacy groups Pacific Environment and Stand.earth have welcomed the commitment, but says it is “too weak to address the urgent climate and public health crises tied to the ocean shipping sector.” The two groups lead the Ship It Zero campaign, an effort to mobilize consumers to pressure major retail brands to switch entirely to zero-emissions ships by 2030.

The Ship It Zero coalition days it applauds certain details of the announcement, including that:

  • Companies will define zero-carbon fuels based on “lifecycle greenhouse gas” analysis, ensuring that fossil-derived hydrogen will not meet their criteria
  • Companies will not consider fossil gas, or LNG, a zero-carbon fuel in their ocean shipping transitions
  • Companies are calling in this statement for mandatory policy actions from government to help them achieve these ambitions

However the Ship It Zero coalition says it is concerned, that:

  • Companies did not specify actions they will take to end ship pollution today, tomorrow, or throughout our most decisive decade on climate action.
  • Companies largely committed to addressing climate pollution and do not include parallel commitments to ending air pollution from ocean shipping, including sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter pollution.

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