Malaysia needs a carbon neutrality roadmap for maritime industry

By Dr. Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen, senior lecturer at Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu; and Captain Mohd Faizal Ramli, EHS marine specialist in the oil & gas sector.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in his presentation of the 12th Malaysia Plan, emphasized that the government aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon neutrality refers to the process of balancing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by removing an equal amount of carbon from the atmosphere in return for the amount produced.

Carbon reduction in the maritime industry is essential to Malaysia’s carbon agenda. As a critical link in the global supply chain, fostering carbon reduction initiatives would address the industry’s environmental and climate change repercussions, notably in shipping and ports sector. 

There are also other essential benefits such as satisfying the sustainability objective, enhanced biodiversity, healthier socioeconomics, and a stronger emphasis on renewable energy encouragement.

Malaysia, as a flag state, port state and coastline state, has ratified nearly half of the IMO conventions to guarantee safe and secure shipping, with marine environmental protection as a prime concern. As a result, it is critical for Malaysia’s maritime industry to establish its own decarbonization milestones that are consistent with the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s plan to reflect the commitment made.

Recognizing the importance of promoting sustainable maritime development, Malaysia also may be able to accomplish its carbon neutrality goal by 2050 by establishing a roadmap. Hence, the government should emphasize the need of a new governance framework in strengthening administrative and legislative concerns.  

This governance framework is critical in moving the maritime industry toward carbon neutrality. The results will undoubtedly help society, the economy, and the country since they complement the 12th Malaysia Plan’s target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

A maritime industry strategic plan must clearly define the status, issues, and potential courses of action for the particular subject, as well as provide a roadmap. While great progress has been made, significant obstacles must be addressed before the industry can accomplish such ambitious goals.

The ongoing carbon reduction actions fall under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Paris Agreement’s sustained action will serve as the foundation for developing the framework idea of net-zero emissions. The agreement mandated the Malaysian government to make long-term commitments to reduce GHG emissions and to increase those efforts over time.  

It is critical to create awareness among the maritime community on the need for action to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. To date, Malaysia is on the right track, and some of the port administrators have endorsed the IMO’s decarbonization objective, encouraging port operators to follow the IMO’s standards on carbon emissions reduction and ship energy efficiency. Port Klang, for example, is committed to assisting this by being early adopters of green technology.

Simultaneously, there is immense room for improvement in terms of efficiently reducing carbon emissions. R&D investment in the development of green technologies and the manufacturing of high-value-added goods appears to contribute to the shot on target of carbon neutrality by 2050.

At some point, Malaysia has to enhance its energy efficiency in light of the significant rise in worldwide seaborne commerce volumes and zero-carbon energy must be derived from non-fossil fuel or renewable energy sources such as methanol, ammonia and hydrogen.

Malaysia has several agencies to support the high ambitious target; it is now time to establish tremendous synergy among the authorities involved yet eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy.

Lifeline of global trade

Maritime transportation is one of the most important nodes in international trade because of its significant effect on the overall performance of global supply chains. The plethora of shipping traffic and maritime trade, on the other hand, has a significant adverse impact on the marine environment and human health.

According to UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) statistics, the world commercial fleet increased by 63 million dwt between January 2021 and January 2022.The majority of fuel used in maritime transportation is petroleum-based, and fuel combustion accounts for air pollution caused by exhaust gases. 

According to the IMO, with almost 90 percent of worldwide trade handled by sea, the maritime sector accounts for around three percent of global yearly carbon emissions. 

Global shipping emissions might increase by up to 130 percent by 2050, according to the IMO. At the beginning of 2020, the IMO implemented new sulphur regulations which set a limit on the sulphur content in the fuel oil used on board ships from 3.5 percent to only 0.5 percent mass by mass. 

The IMO set a goal for CO2 emissions in the shipping industry: a 50 percent drop in CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2008. The IMO also agreed to cut the carbon intensity of international shipping by 40 percent by 2030, and to work toward a 70 percent drop by 2050.

Photo credit: iStock/ Kapook2981

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