Zero-carbon ships on horizon under fuel levy plan

(The Guardian, 18 Dec 2019) Climate groups say 10-year ICS plan not urgent enough to cut carbon from ‘dirty’ sector.

Shipping companies would have to pay a small levy on every tonne of fuel they use under proposals aimed at developing zero-carbon vessels within 10 years, transforming the high-carbon global shipping business.

Ships running on hydrogen or ammonia as fuel are thought to be technically possible, but more research and development is needed to bring forward the development of prototypes.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents 80% of the global shipping industry, is proposing a $2 levy on every tonne of fuel consumed by ships, raising $500m a year that would be devoted to research and development of zero-carbon vessels.

“This is a very positive proposal,” said Guy Platten, the secretary general of the ICS. “We need to get to zero carbon [for shipping] and this is a transparent mechanism for raising funds that we need to help us do that. We have worked for years on this with the support of our members.”

Fuel costs about $400 a tonne at present, set to rise to an estimated $600 next year following the introduction of new regulations on cutting sulphur emissions from ship oil. The $2 levy is small in comparison, and Platten said it was kept low so that developing countries would see it as affordable, but it would still raise enough to fund the development of a new generation of ships in a decade or so.

Simon Bennett, the ICS’s deputy secretary general, said shipowners could foresee that they would be pressed to further cut greenhouse gases, and that without a coherent plan to move to zero emissions in the next few decades it was likely that “something far worse” could be imposed. That could feasibly include rationing emissions for maritime transport in the next 20 to 30 years.

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The Guardian, 18 Dec 2019: Zero-carbon ships on horizon under fuel levy plan