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Globally, the shipping sector produces 2-3% of global CO2 emissions. International and national targets has been set to cur the sector’s carbon emissions in the next few decade.

Why decarbonisation?

The latest IPCC report shows that if we fail to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels, the extreme weather events we have seen worldwide in recent years will get more frequent. The impacts of climate change can affect the tidal Thames in various ways, including economic, environmental, and safety.

The world has to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) to as close to zero as possible, with a small amount of remaining emissions absorbed through natural carbon sinks to avoid reaching the climatic tipping points and catastrophic climate change. The Paris Agreement, adopted by 196 Parties in Paris in 2015, legally binds international treaty on climate change and sets a goal to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial levels. In 2019, the UK government committed to achieving Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

What does it mean to the maritime sector?

The burning of fossil fuels is the major contributor to man-made GHG emissions. Majority of the vessels across the world are running on fossil fuels.

At an international level, the Initial IMO GHG strategy in 2018 set an ultimate goal of 50% reduction in total GHG emissions from international shipping by 2050 compared to a 2008 and an 85% reduction in CO2 emissions per ship, given expectations of growth in demand and therefore the size of the fleet. The target is in parallel with an ambition to reduce the carbon intensity of transport work by at least 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050.

At a national level, the emissions from domestic and UK’s share of international shipping are now included within the Sixth Carbon Budget.  The Maritime 2050, published by the DfT, set out the ambition of the UK to lead the way on clean maritime growth with a need for a transition to zero emission shipping and continued investment into maritime infrastructure. The subsequent Clean Maritime Plan aims for zero-emission capable commercial vessels to be in operation by 2025, with all new vessels at this point to be designed with zero-emission propulsion. By 2035, the Plan aims for clean maritime clusters to be in place while having low/zero emission bunkering options available across the UK and being a world leader in the zero-emissions maritime sector.

What does it mean to the Port of London?

The PLA has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2040, with an interim target of halving its carbon emissions relative to the 2014 baseline by 2025. As custodians of the tidal Thames the PLA is also committed to helping the wider Port of London decarbonise.

Acknowledging that the future of Thames river use is going to be shaped by substantial change as the economy decarbonises in response to climate change, new technologies emerge, trading patterns adjust, and we recover from the pandemic, the PLA has been actively assessing the risks and opportunities for the port.  We have commissioned various studies, including the Port Trade Forecast, which shows a decline in oil product cargoes in the port through the 2030s as the economy decarbonises, whilst new opportunities will emerge in sustainable fuels, Future Energy Demand and Supply, which assessed the energy demand and energy provision solutions needed to meet it, and the Emission Reduction Roadmap, that sets out options available for reducing air and carbon emissions.

Last updated 2/2/2022