SBTi plots course for shipping industry to meet science-based net-zero goals

Global body enabling businesses to set emissions reduction targets in line with climate science the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has launched the world’s first framework for shipping industry companies to set near- and long-term science-based targets in line with 1.5°C and net-zero.


The maritime sector serves as a critical link in many global supply chains; more than 80% of global trade by volume is carried by sea. This sector contributes to over 3% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, which is on course to increase more than fivefold by 2050.

Photo: SBTi

In a first for any sector-specific science-based emissions guidance, maritime businesses must set both near- and long-term science-based targets for emissions from their owned operations.

For the maritime sector, a long-term target means reducing emissions to a residual level in line with 1.5°C by no later than 2040. This is in line with sector-specific recommendations from science and academia.

Through the Science Based Target Setting Guidance for the Maritime Transport Sector, the SBTi outlines how much and how quickly a maritime transport company needs to cut emissions to be in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Furthermore, it provides detailed information on how maritime companies should set targets and account for greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account the particular barriers and opportunities of the sector.

The SBTi Maritime Guidance has been developed for users and providers of marine transportation services, that is, companies that own and operate ocean-going vessels and those setting targets for their supply chain emissions associated with maritime trade.

“The shipping industry is on course to increase emissions more than five fold before 2050. This is incompatible with our planetary limits. We must turn the ship and set a new course to drive immediate emission reductions,” Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of the SBTi, said.

“This is a huge challenge and we’ve created this new guidance to help maritime companies approach it head on. By using this science-based guidance, maritime transport businesses can set and implement credible climate targets with the ambition needed to avoid climate breakdown.”

According to UMAS Transition Strategy Report, a sector focussed advisory consulting which undertakes research using shipping system models, big data, and qualitative and social science analysis, the industry must scale up climate action and cut its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2040 to get on track and meet the global climate goals.

This guidance was developed with the support of Smart Freight Centre (SFC) and UMAS, and in consultation with a Technical Working Group (TWG) made up of experts from academia, civil society and business.

The development process included a month-long public consultation to guarantee the criteria and guidance are robust, clear and practical, and provide business leaders with confidence that their decarbonization strategies are in line with climate science.

Meanwhile, at last year’s MEPC77, the International Maritime Organisation failed to revise the current greenhouse gas (GHG) target for 2050 to speed up the decarbonization of the global shipping industry. Further revision of the target will not take place until 2023.

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They failed to show sufficient support for the proposed resolution for zero shipping emissions by 2050 put forward by the Marshall and Solomon Islands, despite the broad support for the target. 

Countries that supported the zero by 2050 target are EU27, Georgia, Norway, Republic of Korea, Bahamas and Kenya, and those that opposed to the new target are Brazil, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Paraguay, Nigeria, South Africa, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Iran.

Recently, green group Transport and Environment presented its research that global shipping emissions could be slashed without ‘ineffective’ IMO. The group noted that Europe, China and US could decarbonise 84% of global shipping emissions and bypass IMO, if these economies were to regulate ships calling at their ports.

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