Decarbonizing shipping

The best materials, the most efficient manufacturing practices and oodles of carbon capture aren’t enough to undo the damage caused by shipping things around! Which is why the shipping industry needs to decarbonize.

Shipping currently contributes approximately 2-3% of global carbon emissions. Of the 14 trillion dollars spent each year on transportation, over 90% goes on journeys by sea. Carbon emissions could soon become a major criteria for trade deals and negotiations – impacting world trade.

The world’s largest container shipping line A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S has called for a $150-a-ton carbon tax on shipping fuel that would drive up the costs for an industry that delivers 80% of world trade. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S says such a levy would help bridge the price gap between fossil fuels that vessels consume today and greener alternatives that are currently much more expensive. Fuel costs would effectively almost double if the measure were imposed today because of how carbon dioxide emissions are counted. Maersk’s call is in part a response to changing business behaviors. Almost half of the company’s top 200 customers have set targets to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions.

From a consumer perspective, being able to access reliable data about the carbon emissions on shipping could drive real change: Especially in things like food, where the carbon footprint of growing certain types of foods is large and in addition, shipping it across the world further adds to emissions. Locally grown, sustainably marketed products and brands will emerge when the costs of shipping ramp up. The challenge though, will be around managing customers, who are now used to buying food from all across the world. Further, companies are talking about radical transparency. The challenge of transparency is the supply of too much information.
If each one of us knew the carbon impact of everything we bought, from our clothes, to our car, to the food we eat, we could use that to inform our choices. Stock values, press, brand reputation, and bottom-line revenues will all be susceptible to this change.