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Singapore is leading the way on taking carbon out of shipping

Monday, 29 May 2023 | 00:00

Last month, Asia was swept by record-breaking temperatures. Fueled by climate change, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, intense and lethal.

But even as much of Asia endured its hottest April ever, a visit to Singapore gave me hope for the fight to tackle climate change.

It is no secret the city-state’s remarkable success has been built on maritime trade. As well as a deep network of treaties to encourage international trade, Singapore quite literally powers the way as the world’s largest refueling hub for shipping. Anyone flying in can see hundreds of cargo ships anchored offshore waiting to refill their tanks.

But shipping needs to transition away from fossil fuels just like any other sector and do its fair share to respond to the global climate crisis in a just and equitable way that leaves no one behind.

Ships globally emit around 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, or about 3% of overall emissions. Ranked as a country, shipping would be the world’s sixth-largest emitter, just behind Japan.

Governments worldwide are increasingly focused on decarbonizing shipping, with pressure mounting to agree by July on a 2050 goal of zero emissions and ambitious 2030 and 2040 targets that align with the 1.5 C Paris Agreement goal.

In March, the EU adopted new climate initiatives to drive zero-emission shipping. The FuelEU Maritime regulation sets an increasingly stringent greenhouse gas intensity target for marine fuels, and the EU Emissions Trading System has been extended to cover maritime emissions.

While these moves may pose significant business risks for Singapore, they also present tremendous opportunities, which the city-state is already seizing.

Supporting shipping’s just and equitable transition to renewable energy sources is imperative for Singapore to maintain its status as the strategic transshipment and refueling hub for global shipping and trade. By taking a journey toward decarbonization, Singapore can attract investment and stimulate growth in digitalization, new maritime fuels and technology development.

Inspiring discussions during the annual Singapore Maritime Week event last month showed that the country has grasped the energy transition and is arguably one of the leaders in advancing zero-emission shipping.

The country’s decarbonization blueprint lays out comprehensive strategies for the maritime sector to reach zero emissions by 2050. The Port Authority of Singapore, meanwhile, is progressively preparing for a multifuel future, working with partners to establish a supply chain for zero-carbon fuels, especially green ammonia, hydrogen and methanol.

Progress is also being made on electrifying vessels that just operate locally. Singapore has announced a mandate for all new harbor craft to be fully electric or net-zero capable by 2030. The country’s first fully electric ferry started operations last month, and by August, three are to be on the water.

Larger cargo ships with swappable batteries are on the way. Plans for building out more ship charging points dovetail nicely with the Sembcorp Energy Storage System, which launched in December as Southeast Asia’s largest battery energy storage system. It will be critical for expanding domestic use of solar power.

Farther afield, Singapore is working with the Dutch port of Rotterdam to launch a “green and digital shipping corridor” by 2027 to facilitate transit by ships powered by sustainable fuels along the 8,000 nautical miles between the harbors.

Singapore recently signed an agreement with the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for a similar trans-Pacific corridor. The city-state is also working with Norway to support developing countries decarbonizing their ports and shipping.

These efforts underscore Singapore’s leadership, and its pragmatic and inclusive approach to collaborating with actors across the maritime value chain to accelerate the global green transition. It is setting a good example for other countries, particularly in Asia.

Singapore’s actions are helping it keep pace with corporate efforts to decarbonize shipping. Some of the world’s biggest retailers, including Amazon.com, have pledged to use only ships running on zero-emission fuels by 2040. The first commercial ammonia-fueled marine engines are due to come in service next year.

Shipping line Maersk, aiming to reach net-zero by 2040, has ordered 19 methanol-capable container ships that should begin to hit the water later this year; it has signed up service providers in Singapore, Shanghai and other major ports to ensure the new ships will be able to run on sustainably derived methanol.

To create the business case for much larger green maritime investments, actors across the maritime value chain have called out for regulatory certainty about how policy will align with the 1.5 C trajectory.

Paris-aligned regulations are vital for rapidly scaling up development and deployment of new fuels and ship-related technologies. New fuel markets can generate economic opportunities for renewable-rich nations, including developing countries, to become green fuel producers.

Aside from regulations, market-based measures, like carbon levies, are also critical for closing the price gap between fossil and renewable fuels, while providing revenue for financing enhanced climate actions in vulnerable developing nations.

In July, International Maritime Organization member states will gather to discuss revising their climate strategies. Kitack Lim, the group’s secretary-general, last month in Singapore urged member states to elevate their vision and levels of ambition.

Only by adopting a goal of zero emissions by 2050 and setting ambitious interim targets for 2030 and 2040, while supporting a market mechanism that can generate revenue to support a fair transition, can we put maritime shipping and trade on a just and equitable pathway aligned with 1.5 C.

In view of Singapore’s government-led efforts to support shipping’s transition and the encouraging actions of private organizations and companies, I am optimistic that we, as a shipping community, will be able to steer the maritime sector at full throttle toward zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
Source: Nikkei

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