COP26: 19 countries pledge to create zero-emission shipping corridors

Nineteen countries have signed a declaration to establish “green shipping corridors” — zero-emission maritime routes between two or more ports — in an effort to help the shipping sector decarbonize.

Illustration. Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

As informed, the specific green maritime routes will be decarbonized from end to end, including both land-side infrastructure and vessels.

First-mover signatories of the Clydebank Declaration include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Japan, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.

“It is our collective aim to support the establishment of at least 6 green corridors by the middle of this decade, while aiming to scale activity up in the following years, by inter alia supporting the establishment of more routes, longer routes and/or having more ships on the same routes,” the signatories of the declaration stated.

“It is our aspiration to see many more corridors in operation by 2030. We will assess these goals by the middle of this decade, with a view to increasing the number of green corridors.”

In the pursuit of the above goals, the signatories pledge to:

  • facilitate the establishment of partnerships, with participation from ports, operators and others along the value chain, to accelerate the decarbonisation of the shipping sector and its fuel supply through green shipping corridor projects;
  • identify and explore actions to address barriers to the formation of green corridors. This could cover, for example, regulatory frameworks, incentives, information sharing or infrastructure;
  • consider the inclusion of provisions for green corridors in the development or review of National Action Plans;
  • work to ensure that wider consideration is taken for environmental impacts and sustainability when pursuing green shipping corridors.

Specifically, green shipping corridors will be established in a way that two or more signatories to the declaration identify and take steps with relevant willing ports, operator(s) and others along the value chain to decarbonise a specific shared maritime route. A signatory to the declaration can also take steps with relevant willing ports, operator(s) and others along the value chain to decarbonise a specific domestic maritime route within the jurisdiction and control of a signatory.

The shipping industry emits an estimated 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. If it were a country, the shipping industry would be the sixth-largest emitter, ahead of Germany. On its current trajectory, maritime trade is projected to grow by as much as 130% by 2050 over today’s trade volume. Put simply — the world cannot stop the climate crisis without urgent action to decarbonize international shipping this decade.

By building out zero-emission maritime “corridors,” major trade partners can catalyze land-side investments needed in clean energy and zero-emission electro-fuel infrastructure at ports. The corridors approach enables governments to first incentivize and, eventually, require that only zero-emission ships can travel from, say, Shanghai to Los Angeles or Rotterdam to New York.

However, all vessels transiting a green corridor would not be required to be zero-emission or to participate in the partnerships.

Advocacy groups Ocean Conservancy and Pacific Environment welcomed the COP26 Clydebank Declaration for Clean Shipping but warned that its framework leaves room for delay.

“Today’s declaration is a great first step towards cleaning up our ports, port communities and the maritime sector. The cooperation inherent in these green corridor commitments will help pave the way for eliminating emissions from ports and shipping here in the U.S. and internationally,” Dan Hubbell, Shipping Emissions Campaign Manager, Ocean Conservancy, commented.

“We need to see today’s declaration followed up with progress towards strong mid-term measures at the  upcoming International Maritime Organization meeting later this month if we’re to keep the shipping sector in line with a 1.5C future.”

“We thank the United Kingdom for leading this clean shipping initiative and commend all first-mover nations, but warn the Clydebank framework leaves room for delay tactics and fossil fuel loopholes. We urge partner countries and ports to act quickly to set immediate, interim and ultimately mandatory benchmarks to phase out all fossil fuel ship pollution along their shared corridors,” Madeline Rose, Climate Campaign Director, Pacific Environment, said.