An agreement has been reached by Denmark, the US, and 12 other countries on delivering a net-zero global maritime industry by 2050.

Led by Denmark, the ‘Declaration on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050’ was announced on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland this week. 

The declaration will build support for the green shipping goals of the UN-backed International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is aiming to introduce new emissions-cutting measures by 2023.

“We urge the IMO to take action to set ambitious targets to achieve zero emission shipping by 2050,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at COP26. “Carbon-neutral shipping is vital to reaching our climate goals.”

The other 12 countries that followed Denmark’s lead in signing the declaration were Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, the Marshall Islands, Norway, Panama, Sweden, and the UK.

The declaration commits its signatories to work with the IMO to “adopt goals for 2020 and 2040 that that place the sector on a pathway to full decarbonisation by 2050, and to adopt the measures to help achieve these goals.”

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim welcomed the focus on shipping and the progress at COP26, saying that success at the conference would prepare the IMO to lead the global shipping industry to further green initiatives.

The IMO, which sets shipping regulations through its 175 member countries, aims to reach such initiatives through consensus. 

Such consensus is still lacking, however, given that majority approval would be required. 

This means that countries with large maritime shipping sectors – such as China, India, and Japan – which did not sign the declaration, are still to be persuaded.

Around 90% of global trade is transported by sea, and the global shipping industry accounts for 2.5% to 3% of global CO2 emissions.

As mentioned in this week’s Trade Finance Talks podcast, if global shipping was a country, it would be the world’s sixth largest polluter.