Four Ways to Reduce Climate Pollution Caused by Shipping Under the Belt and Road Initiative

By Catherine Ittner and Hongming Liu

Despite global efforts to address the climate crisis, the shipping industry is on track to increase its global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 10% by 2050, unless countries don’t take urgent action.

China’s efforts to increase investment and economic collaboration by building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st The Century Maritime Silk Road – also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – is a great opportunity for countries to cooperate to decarbonize shipping. The maritime routes that make up the 21st The Century Maritime Silk Road, which runs through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, is essential to the success of international trade in the region, but the ships that use these routes are d ‘important sources of greenhouse gases.

The Environmental Defense Fund has contributed to a new BRI report, which highlights innovative ideas and low-carbon technologies that can reduce shipping pollution and help China and other BRI countries achieve their climate goals.

Need to decarbonize

Despite an urgent need to reduce GHG emissions in the shipping industry, many countries are not prioritizing climate policies for shipping. Twenty-three countries are part of the Maritime Silk Road, but only five of them have incorporated the shipping industry into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), each country’s efforts to reduce emissions national.

The BRI International Green Development Coalition “aims to establish a platform for policy dialogue and communication, a platform for environmental knowledge and information, and a platform for green technology exchange and transfer” for contribute to ensuring a green and sustainable BRI, in particular by decarbonizing maritime transport. EDF, with Equitable Maritime Consulting, had the chance to contribute to the research of the new report of the BRI International Green Development Coalition on maritime connectivity and green development.

Policy recommendations

The report presents four key policy recommendations for advancing green shipping:

  1. Monitoring: Establish a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) framework for international shipping within the BRI. A comprehensive and effective monitoring and evaluation system is essential to ensure that efforts to reduce GHG pollution deliver results. BRI countries involved in international shipping should jointly implement a data sharing framework and platform to monitor, report and verify data related to GHG mitigation programs. Countries could then leverage the data collected to secure support for environmental financing of the most profitable green shipping projects.
  1. Research: Establishment of technical cooperation and a joint research program to assess the potential for the production of zero-carbon alternative fuels. To decarbonise quickly enough, the shipping industry needs low carbon and economically viable alternative fuels. A joint research program should undertake a comprehensive life cycle assessment of zero emission fuels, as well as an analysis of the supply and demand for these fuels, which takes into account the specific conditions of BRI countries. With the aim of improving the economic viability of zero-emission fuels for the BRI countries, further research can form the basis of a long-term and cost-effective decarbonization strategy for maritime transport within the BRI.
  1. Ports: Strengthen research and application of low-carbon port technologies to promote the coordinated development of green ports and green maritime transport. The development of green maritime transport is impossible without ports. Ports can adopt technologies – such as shore power and the ship-to-port interface – to reduce GHG emissions. The shore power supply allows ships to turn off their engines and connect to the power grid, with the potential to significantly reduce climate and air pollution. The ship-to-port interface is an interconnection and data communications platform that enables ports to improve terminal efficiency and reduce vessel turnaround time in port. BRI countries can accelerate the decarbonization of shipping by adopting pollution control port technologies like these.
  1. Carbon incentives and pricing: Develop an incentive program for ecological transport and explore carbon pricing mechanisms. The BRI may explore new ways to reduce emissions, such as rewarding ships with excellent operational carbon intensity ratings and considering a cooperative carbon pricing mechanism for international shipping. Both tools can promote more efficient and cleaner ships, as well as the use of zero-emission alternative fuels.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, countries must seize every opportunity to collaborate on the decarbonization of maritime transport as soon as possible.

The well-designed policy package outlined in the new report by the BRI International Green Development Coalition has established a roadmap for BRI countries to spur innovation, deploy proven and cost-effective low-carbon technologies. and lead a green transition for the shipping industry. China and other BRI countries have the opportunity to model climate cooperation while pursuing the region’s economic success, as well as have a ripple effect within the international community to facilitate multilateral cooperation.

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