Maritime industry’s greenhouse gas emissions could surge to 44 percent by 2050: Analysis

Maritime transport currently contributes to 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions
Maritime industry’s greenhouse gas emissions could surge to 44 percent by 2050: Analysis
New study explores the current response of the maritime industry to climate change.

The maritime industry plays a crucial role in global supply chains, but it also contributes to 3 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. To address this urgent issue, Arthur D. Little (ADL) has put forth practical strategies in a viewpoint titled “Cleaner Seas: Mitigating Maritime Emissions” to help the maritime industry adopt more sustainable practices and reduce emissions.

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Current emissions and urgent need for action

ADL’s analysis reveals that maritime transport currently accounts for 1,708 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, representing 3 percent of the global total. If no action is taken, this number could rise to 44 percent by 2050. Recognizing the urgency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set ambitious goals for reducing emissions. Initially aiming for a 50 percent reduction by 2050, the IMO is now pushing for net-zero emissions by the same year. As part of these efforts, the IMO has introduced a plan requiring a minimum of 5 percent of international shipping energy to come from alternative fuels or energy sources, with a target of reaching 10 percent by 2030.

Pivotal role of the maritime sector in achieving net-zero emissions

Paolo Carlomagno, partner and senior member of the Travel & Transportation practice at Arthur D. Little, said: “The maritime sector plays a pivotal role in the global effort to achieve net-zero emissions. Our efforts to address maritime emissions must be swift and bold in order to combat the looming threat of climate change through a collaborative approach. Our latest viewpoint aims to highlight the importance of sustainable practices and encourage stakeholders across the value chain to embrace carbon-reduction solutions. Alternative fuels and technological innovations are critical components of this strategy, but we must also address challenges around scalability and environmental impact. With unwavering commitment and innovative thinking, we can chart a course towards a cleaner and more sustainable future for the maritime industry and our planet.”

Maritime greenhouse emissions
Paolo Carlomagno, partner and senior member of the Travel & Transportation practice at Arthur D. Little.

Scaling up green fuels and transforming maritime operations

To promote sustainability in the maritime industry, ADL proposes innovative solutions and expertise to tackle the challenges posed by emissions. The viewpoint advocates for the adoption of alternative fuels such as green fuels (biodiesel, bio-methane, and bio-methanol) and e-fuels (e-methane, e-methanol, green ammonia, and hydrogen). In the short term, options like blue methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen can offer decarbonization benefits, reducing emissions by 20 percent to 60 percent. However, these fuels are not sustainable in the long run as they rely on fossil-based sources. A more sustainable approach lies in the use of green fuels, which can reduce emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent. Although challenges exist regarding environmental impact and scalability, efforts should be made to encourage shipping companies to increase their usage of green fuels, while incentivizing producers to ramp up production.

Enhancing operational efficiency through technological innovations

In addition to alternative fuels, the viewpoint emphasizes the significance of technological innovations to enhance operational efficiency in existing maritime assets. Onboard carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems have shown promise by trapping over 60 percent of a ship’s CO2 emissions. Technical innovations like wind-assist propulsion, solar panels, and fuel cells are identified as crucial strategies to minimize fuel consumption and decrease emissions. Other innovations, including kite-sail systems and improved hull designs, can significantly reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent to 40 percent and up to 8 percent, respectively.

The viewpoint also explores voluntary measures implemented by stakeholders. It highlights initiatives such as emission-trading systems, internal carbon pricing, and carbon-reduction services offered by shipping carriers. Additionally, it mentions Singapore’s forward-thinking approach, aiming to become the world’s largest automated terminal by 2040 and ensuring that at least half of all Singapore-flagged vessels are “green” by 2050.

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