The US is to work with member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to adopt a goal of achieving zero emissions from international shipping by 2050.
US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry announced that the US will also look to adopt “ambitious measures” that will place the entire sector on the pathway to achieve this goal.
In an online conference hosted by Ocean Conservancy, Kerry stated: “The technologies that we need to decarbonise shipping are known to us. They need investment and they need to be scaled up.
“It’s incumbent on all nations to send a clear signal to the industry so they will make those investments in the near future.”
With the announcement, the US becomes the second country, along with Saudi Arabia, to formally pledge to work toward the IMO’s greenhouse gas strategy.
Kerry pointed out that action this decade is essential, with global warming currently heading towards a 4°C increase, far exceeding the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Meanwhile, the UK’s sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions for the first time, aiming to slash emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.
It is hoped that Britain will remain on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C.
Previous carbon budgets have formally excluded these emissions, instead leaving ‘headroom’ for them.
However, international aviation emissions were included in the advice of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC), and are included in the 2050 net zero target, which was set on a whole economy basis.
COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma, stated: “We must collectively keep 1.5 degrees of warming in reach and the next decade is the most critical period for us to change the perilous course we are currently on. Long term targets must be backed up with credible delivery plans.”
Executive Director of Green Alliance Shaun Spiers said: “What we need now is to ensure there is no gap between ambition and policy, so the UK has the right tools in its armoury to meet these targets.”
Environmental campaigners view the announcement as an important international precedent, with the UK closing a ‘loophole’ to become the first major economy to account for its airline and shipping emissions under its carbon budget.
The European Parliament is pushing EU member states to do this in negotiations over the EU Climate Law this week and green NGO Transport and Environment (T&E) has called for the EU should follow suit immediately.
Matt Finch, UK policy manager at T&E, said: “We congratulate the Prime Minister for taking this key step on the path to decarbonise planes and ships.
“Properly accounting for the emissions is essential, but we now need meaningful action to control greenhouse gas releases and prevent future emissions rising above pre-pandemic levels. In the process the UK can become a world leader of zero-emission fuels for planes and ships.”