ICS, IRENA join forces to advance global green fuel transition

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), representing over 80% of world’s merchant fleet, has signed a Partnership Agreement with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to support the decarbonization of the shipping sector and its role in the transition towards a global energy sector based on renewables.

Signed during a meeting between the heads of the two organizations at the Twelfth Session of IRENA Assembly 2022, the partnership will provide a framework over the next two years for ICS and IRENA to assist with the decarbonization of the shipping sector and the use of renewable technologies on this key sector of the global economy. 

It will also enable the industry to work closer with IRENA’s global membership of more than 160 countries and territories on issues related to the increasing role of renewable energy in decarbonizing shipping.

The organizations will set up a regular exchange of information regarding energy supply and demand relevant to the shipping sector and exchange of data on scenarios of ‘future fuels’ (such as green hydrogen and ammonia), for both, nation states and the shipping industry. 

This partnership agreement draws particular focus on the need to ensure an equitable energy transition for developing economies, and the important role of capacity building as well as recognizing the energy needs of shipping itself.

Speaking on the agreement, Guy Platten secretary general ICS said: “Shipping accounts for nearly 3% of global CO2 emissions, and our decarbonization journey is a massive challenge. We need to reduce our reliance on carbon-intensive fuels to power ships, not least because in years to come the global fleet will need to ship zero carbon fuels to countries around the world. 

“Our new strategic partnership with IRENA is a vital steppingstone to ensuring that transporting green fuels is itself made ‘green’. It is vital that the shipping sector continues to get closer to producers and consumers to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels, and is a key part of the solution, not a blocker, to the zero-emission transition.”

With new access to governments from 167 countries, ICS hopes that the agreement with IRENA will spur R&D investment from political decision-makers into making zero-carbon fuels widely commercially available. 

ICS presented at COP26 that nearly US$5 billion is needed to accelerate the shift in R&D to zero-carbon fuels in the shipping sector, as multiple nascent technologies need to be developed to reach large scale deployment. Shifting to alternative fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia, biofuels and electrification from renewable sources could cut 80% of emissions from maritime transport by 2050 as presented by IRENA. 

The Partnership Agreement will also see consultation between the two bodies with a view to combining capacity-building opportunities and avoiding duplication of resources.

IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said: ‘‘Urgent action is needed to accelerate the pace of the global energy transition and the decarbonization of the global economy. International shipping is a key sector of the economy. Indeed, more than 80% of global trade is enabled via ocean going vessels. Yet the sector is also one of the most challenging to decarbonize.

“As such, the shipping sector requires significant levels of investment and cooperation to ensure it contributes positively to the global climate agenda. To solve these challenges, we must continue with efforts to build a grand net zero coalition, bringing industry and the policy community together. This agreement is another positive step in that direction. Under this partnership, IRENA will work towards joint solutions to overcome existing challenges to decarbonize the shipping sector.”

The memorandum specifically identifies the opportunity that exists within developing nations, supporting the recently established ‘Just Transition Maritime Task Force’, which was founded at COP26 to drive decarbonization of the industry.

Many seafarers come from developing nations, who are witnessing first-hand the effects of climate change. ICS wants these workers to be given green skills they need to keep global trade moving, and for developing nations to have access to the technologies and infrastructure to be part of shipping’s green transition.

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