Maersk making move to go carbon neutral by 2050

By Cate Hull
With a global debate still raging on about climate change, shipping giant Maersk recently announced it would transition to a net zero CO2 emission by 2050.

The company said to achieve the goal, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030, and an acceleration in new innovations and adaption of new technology is required.

According to Maersk, shipping carries around 80 percent of global trade and is critical to finding worldwide environmental solutions. The shipper has already seen a 46 percent reduction in CO2 emissions since 2007, nine percent more than the industry average.

As world trade and shipping volumes continue to grow, efficiency improvements on the current fossil-based technology can keep shipping emissions at current levels, but not reduce them significantly or eliminate them.

“The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” says Søren Toft, chief operating officer at A.P. Moller – Maersk.

Maersk is putting its efforts towards solving problems specific to maritime transport, as automotive, rail and aviation call for different solutions.

Given the 20-25-year life time of a vessel, the company believes now is the time to join forces and start developing the new type of vessels that will be crossing the seas in 2050.

“The next 5-10 years are going to be crucial. We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonised solutions. Over the last four years, we have invested around $1 billion (U.S.) and engaged more than 50 engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficient solutions. Going forward, we cannot do this alone” adds Toft.

Interestingly, in Australia, where FreightExchange is based, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbell faced strong opposition from conservatives in his party who rebelled over his plan to write the country’s Paris Accord targets into law.

The debate over climate change has shifted. As a scientific matter, the issues of whether it’s happening and who’s to blame are long settled. But there’s no end to debates about what to do about it.

Some communities are already trying to relocate away from rising waters. Storm-surge barriers and flood gates geared to climate change have gone up in Rotterdam and Venice. New York City installed gates after parts of the city were inundated by the surge driven by super storm Sandy in 2012, and Houston, flooded by Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rains in 2017, is considering new defenses. Even steps as small as providing air conditioners for the poor can play an important role in making cities livable in a hotter future.

It’s hard to know what it would cost to address the problem, and there’s a wide range of forecasts. The Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project, a research effort backed in part by a United Nations group, estimates that for 16 leading countries, meeting their Paris targets would require investments amounting to 0.8 percent of gross domestic product a year by 2020 and 1.3 percent by 2050. The International Finance Corporation has estimated that the Paris Accord opened $23 trillion in investment opportunities for government and private industry by 2030. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that half that much will be spent. Developed nations have committed to boost climate-related aid to poorer countries to $100 billion a year by 2020, including money from both public and private sources.

As a freight and logistics firm, we applaud the efforts of companies like Maersk who are taking the long view.

The movement of goods across oceans and international boundaries will always be a part of our global economy. Efforts to make those movements in an environmentally responsible way will reap benefits in the future.

Cate Hull is the CEO of FreightExchange, a freight and logistics company based in Sydney.