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Amazon, Unilever, IKEA back zero-emission shipping initiative

Nine global corporations adopt ambition statement that commits them to transitioning their freight vessels to zero-carbon fuels by 2040.

Loaded container ship leaving port

Image via Shutterstock (Aun Photographer)

Nine leading multinationals have become the first companies to sign a new 2040 Ambition Statement and commit to transitioning their ocean freight vessels to zero-carbon fuels by 2040, the Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV).

CoZEV is a coalition of cargo owners, initiated by the not-for-profit Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program, that brings together cargo owners and shipping operators to work to accelerate the decarbonization of the shipping industry and deliver on corporations' net zero-emission supply chain commitments.

This week, Amazon, Brooks Running, Frog Bikes, IKEA, Inditex, Michelin, Patagonia, Tchibo and Unilever became the first to sign the 2040 Ambition Statement, sending a message to bunker fuel producers and the shipping industry that freight customers want to see zero-carbon shipping services delivered.

In the statement, zero-carbon fuels are defined as fuels that release no or very little greenhouse gases over their lifecycle, including no emissions at production stage. As such fossil gas or liquified natural gas (LNG) will not be considered as a zero-carbon fuel.

"The coZEV initiative represents an historic step in the fight against climate change, with its bold ambition to harness corporate climate leadership to accelerate decarbonization of the global maritime shipping industry," said Ingrid Irigoyen, director of the Aspen Institute Shipping Decarbonization Initiative, which facilitates the coZEV effort.

"Maritime shipping has long been a major producer of climate and air pollution, and attempts to transition away from fossil fuels have faced significant hurdles, including a perceived lack of freight customer demand that has stifled investment and scalability of potential solutions. By setting an aggressive target today, a group of leaders is changing the conversation.

"And this is just the start. We expect this movement among climate-leading companies to grow rapidly. This will allow us to drive economies of scale, innovation and a surge of confidence among investors and value-chain actors that there is a business opportunity in doing the right thing."

Shipping is responsible for 3 percent of global emissions and, according to coZEV, the industry must transition to zero-carbon fuels by the mid-2020s, use them at scale by 2030, and be fully decarbonized by 2050 at the latest to decarbonize in line with the global goal to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The signatories of the 2040 Ambition Statement are also calling on policymakers and governments worldwide to advance the decarbonization of domestic, regional and international shipping.

Michelle Grose, head of logistics at Unilever, welcomed the new statement. "The next few years offer exciting and important opportunities for harnessing technology and innovation in the shipping industry, and there's really no time to lose," she said. "Working with the Aspen Institute and collaborating with other large maritime freight users as part of the coZEV network, we look forward to accelerating the decarbonization of the maritime industry and working towards our joint commitment of zero-emission shipping."

Her comments were echoed by Edgar Blanco, director of Net-Zero Carbon at Amazon, who said: "The time to act is now, and we welcome other cargo owner companies who want to lead on addressing climate change to join us in collaboration."

The Aspen Shipping Decarbonisation Initiative team said in a blog post that action was needed now to ensure the 2040 target is met. "2040 may seem far away, but experts in this hard-to-abate sector know that vast new zero-carbon fuel supply chains must be built and numerous actors must come together to launch the first large scale projects — from financiers to fuel producers, ports to individual ship owners, carriers, and of course, their customers, the cargo owners whose business underpins the entire enterprise," the group said. "They also know of the need for policy support, regulatory reforms, new fuel standards, updated procedures and protocols necessary to bring zero-carbon solutions to scale."

The team also announced they were developing a series of projects to help companies transition to zero-carbon shipping, including promoting new tools for tracking shipping emissions data and working with cargo owners to support public policies that aim to lower the cost of decarbonization.

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