What impact will COP26 have on shipping?

What impact will COP26 have on shipping?

Nov. 26 2021 - 4 min

It’s not a revolutionary statement to say that the shipping industry must advance toward a decarbonized future. In fact, most industry players have established firm opinions on how to reach net zero by 2050. But what happens when we are forced to look at these challenges from a different perspective? This was the goal of “Shipping After COP26: An Industry for Tomorrow’s World,” a discussion hosted by Malin Group and supported by Bureau Veritas at COP26.

Trying other worldviews on for size

Attendees—stakeholders from all across the industry—spent the morning comprehensively mapping the possible future of shipping in detail, including hopes, obstacles and potential innovations. Focusing on the state of play as COP26 drew to a close, speakers from ZESTAs, ICS, NHS Oceans and more noted technological advances and progress in state commitment for change. They also spoke of the urgency needed and, as Stuart Neil of the ICS put it, 

the greater importance of what happens after the COP rather than at the event itself.

In the afternoon session, participants were divided into groups and tasked with overcoming their established beliefs and values to see what alternative actions might reveal themselves. 

This process exposed a real willingness to challenge our default thinking, to conceive of problems and solutions differently, and to raise up the concerns of smaller stakeholders in the shipping agenda.

Right, wrong and lacking

Three categories emerged from these discussions:

  • ‘Right doings’, or factors positively impacting climate progress
  • ‘Wrong doings’, or factors working against progress
  • ‘Not-doings’, factors that are not receiving adequate attention

Examples of right doings included Norwegian practices in R&D funding, renewables policy, and progress in hydrogen ships and wind assisted technology. In the case of wrong doings, groups highlighted not taking the climate challenge seriously, funding the wrong fuels, and taking a fragmented approach, among others. Under not-doings they noted a lack of urgency, yearly milestones, funding for R&D and support for poorer countries, as well as the need for an IMO-managed transparency register.

What the future holds

These discussions helped to develop a multi-point action plan, including:

  • Pursuing quick wins on existing vessels, such as introducing mandatory hull scrubbing
  • Seeking regulation by governing authorities to make real greenhouse gas commitments, and introducing a carbon levy
  • Data mining to understand what is happening on a micro and macro scale
  • Taking inspiration from the COVID-19 vaccine development and exploring multiple solutions in parallel to be able to advance at speed.

By the end of COP26, progress had been made. Governments and organizations have signed declarations of intent for various measures to bring shipping closer to net zero. These range from roadmaps for green hydrogen and deploying zero emissions vessels, to creating green shipping corridors through the Clydebank declaration. Discussions such as those at “Shipping after COP26” will be vital in shaping future progress towards green shipping in a comprehensive and equitable manner.