Amazon, Ikea and other retailers are committing to purchasing ocean freight services powered only by zero-carbon fuels by 2040, in line with the Paris Agreement.
In the joint statement on Tuesday, the companies, under the name Cargo Owners for Zero Emissions Vessels (COZEV), set a range of goals. They include tracking maritime emissions, establishing interim targets to the 2040 goal, and collaborating on, growing and supporting further efforts to reduce emissions in shipping. This commitment comes in addition to the companies’ existing climate and sustainability pledges.
Joining Amazon and Ikea in this pledge are Unilever, Michelin, Brooks, Patagonia, Tchibo, Inditex and Frog Bikes.
There is debate in the industry about which fuels should be considered carbon-neutral or zero-emissions. COZEV specified that liquefied natural gas does not meet its criteria, and the zero-carbon shipping fuels of the future will likely be hydrogen-based, such as e-ammonia or e-methanol.
The companies defined zero-carbon fuels as those that:
- Have zero greenhouse gas emissions on a life cycle basis.
- Are scalable enough to decarbonize the entire shipping industry.
- Don’t have unaddressed safety or land-use concerns.
“The definition of zero-emissions fuels in this announcement is critically important because it includes a life cycle analysis for marine fuels, which captures the total environmental and human health impacts from fuel choices,” Kendra Ulrich, shipping campaigns director at Stand.earth, told FreightWaves. “This sends a clear market signal to cargo carriers that meeting the demand for sustainable shipping will require investment in nonfossil fuels and propulsion technologies.”
Environmental organizations Stand.earth and Pacific Environment lead the climate coalition Ship It Zero, which earlier this month called on Amazon, Ikea, Target and Walmart to “abandon dirty ships” by 2030.
Ship It Zero called the announcement a “historic commitment,” but said the goal is set for a decade too late.
“We are calling on retail brands to not only commit to zero-emissions cargo shipping by 2030 to catalyze the needed investments now, but also to commit to short-term measures and benchmarks to immediately reduce their climate and human health impacts. We cannot wait another 19 years for shipping to address its massive climate footprint,” Ulrich said, noting that vessels built today will be in operation for decades to come.
Policy support, or lack thereof
Ulrich said these large cargo owners have “enormous power” to influence the shipping industry’s transition to net-zero emissions. But to avoid large green premiums for zero-carbon fuels, the companies acknowledged they will need collaboration between the public and private sectors across the entire supply chain.
“Paris-aligned regulation at the global level is required. … Facing a climate crisis, our interconnected global economy and the maritime industry that facilitates global trade must decarbonize rapidly. Leadership through ambitious and coordinated action is urgently needed across the shipping supply chain,” the statement said.
COZEV called on policymakers to set ambitious emissions-reduction targets for the shipping industry, put regulations and market tools in place to put the maritime industry’s GHG emissions on-track with the Paris Agreement, and support the scaling of renewable energy as a feedstock for zero-carbon shipping fuels.
“In light of the International Maritime Organization’s continued failure to take strong, decisive action to address the climate pollution from this sector, private companies are stepping into the leadership void,” Ulrich said. “This commitment from major global retail brands is a massive wake-up call for the maritime cargo sector.”
COZEV is facilitated by the Aspen Institute’s Shipping Decarbonization Initiative, and its partners include The Ocean Conservancy, the Clean Air Task Force, the Environmental Defense Fund and UMAS.