Biofuels in shipping could reduce maritime emissions

biofuels in shipping
© iStock/Orbon Alija

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) held a debate yesterday at New York’s Climate Change Week on the potential for use of biofuels in shipping.

With merchant shipping currently responsible for between 2% and 3% of the world’s total carbon emissions and strict new regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organization coming into effect from 1 January 2020, concerns are growing over the environmental impact of the maritime industry. The increased use of biofuels in shipping, which would produce fewer harmful emissions than the heavy fuel which is currently prevalent, has been touted as a potential partial solution.

Andrew Stephens, Executive Director at the Sustainable shipping Initiative, said: “We’re delighted to bring some critical voices to the conversation on zero-emission shipping at Climate Week. Getting to zero by 2050 is a bold ambition but it is possible. Shipping needs to kickstart its energy transition now, and for that to happen we need to explore all the sustainable options that can get us there. Our panel will unpack the issues surrounding the use biofuels in shipping – alongside other non-fossil fuels and technologies such as ammonia, hydrogen and batteries. There are more questions than answers, but what remains clear is that investors, shipowners and ship builders, ports and fuel suppliers need to know in which infrastructure they should start investing.”

The debate on biofuels in shipping featured a panel of experts and business leaders, including Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Leader of Climate and Energy Practice at the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Maersk’s Head of Sustainability Strategy and Chief Climate Change Advisor John Kornerup Bang; and Christine Weydig, Director of the Office of Environmental and Energy Programs in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Chief Executive at sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future Sally Uren, who moderated the debate, said: “It has never been more urgent for the shipping sector to move away from fossil fuels, and – while there are no silver bullets – it is clear that the risks of ‘doing nothing’ are simply too great. Our climate can’t wait; and neither can actors across the shipping value chain who need to make critical investment decisions today. The role of biofuels in the sector’s decarbonisation needs to be set out, and we need cross-sectoral collaboration across the maritime, energy, climate and sustainability communities if we are to avoid a host of unintended consequences.”

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