Amazon, IKEA commit to zero emission shipping by 2040

Global retail giants including Amazon and IKEA on October 19 announced a landmark commitment to move their products off of fossil-fueled maritime cargo ships by 2040, but environmental organizations with the Ship It Zero coalition say the commitment is too weak to address the urgent climate and public health crises tied to the ocean shipping sector. 

Environmental groups Pacific Environment and Stand.earth, which lead the Ship It Zero campaign and its 20,000 supporters, are calling on major retail brands to become leaders in their sector by taking immediate action to reduce their climate and health-harming maritime pollution and switching entirely to zero-emissions ships by 2030 — a decade earlier than today’s commitment. This earlier goal will ensure the shipping industry does its fair share to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target scientists say is needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. 

The Ship It Zero coalition 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 “Liquified Natural Gas,” a zero-carbon fuel in their ocean shipping transitions.
  • Companies are calling in this statement for mandatory policy actions from government like clean fuel standards to help them achieve these ambitions.

This Ship It Zero coalition is concerned, however, 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. 

More than 50,000 merchant ships carry around 80% of global trade, and oceangoing cargo volumes are projected to grow by as much as 130% by 2050. Every single merchant ship in operation right now runs on fossil fuels, but zero emissions vessels are expected to be on the water by 2024. 

Retailers can immediately reduce their climate and health-harming emissions from maritime shipping through reducing ship speeds (referred to as slow-steaming), shipping only on vessels that do not burn highly polluting heavy fuel oil and fossil gas (LNG), and prioritizing ports that offer onshore power to vessels to avoid idling ship engines while at berth. 

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