Countries are meeting in an attempt to agree cuts to greenhouse gases from the global shipping industry, amid pressure on the sector to help tackle climate change.
Shipping, like aviation, is not directly included in the Paris Agreement, the international deal on global warming which was secured in the French capital in 2015 and commits countries to avoiding “dangerous” climate change.
At a meeting in London of members of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), countries are debating the action the sector should take on the issue.
The global shipping industry accounts for around 2% to 3% of international climate emissions but if countries take the action pledged under the Paris Agreement, shipping’s share will rise to as much as a fifth by 2050.
The industry has proposed that IMO members agree to cap emissions at 2008 levels, while some countries do not want any curbs, suggesting it would harm global trade.
But some Pacific island nations, such as the Marshall Islands which is threatened by rising sea levels but is also a major flag state, want emissions from shipping to fall to zero, to help keep alive the Paris Agreement pledge to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found maximum deployment of current known technologies, including alternative fuels, efficiency and even use of electric or wind-assisted ships, could almost completely decarbonise the sector by 2035.
The UK is pushing for zero emission shipping “as soon as possible”, with EU member states calling for a 70%-100% cut in greenhouse gases by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.
Ministers have said they want the IMO meeting to secure an “ambitious” deal that ensures international shipping does not get left behind as other sectors take action.
And they said the Government was supporting the industry in the development of green technologies and fuels, which would provide opportunities for growth for UK maritime companies.
Shipping minister Nusrat Ghani said: “The eyes of the world are upon us in what is a crucial week for the future of the shipping industry and our planet.
“Shipping has always been at the forefront of technological change, and needs a clear signal to invest in a zero emissions future.
“I urge all IMO member states to support the UK in its call for an ambitious and credible strategy that will open new opportunities in green technologies and fuels and ensure shipping plays its full part in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.”