Nature and Biodiversity

Can the shipping industry clean up its act? House on Fire podcast

House on Fire ... Shipping is responsible for about a gigaton of C02 emissions per year. Image: Chris Pagan/Uplink

James Bray
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Restoring ocean life

  • Episode 10 of House on Fire looks at how to decarbonise the shipping industry.
  • Shipping accounts for 2-3% of man-made emissions globally.
  • Other episodes in this series focus on the future of meat, biodiversity conservation, blue finance, and more.
  • Subscribe to House on Fire on Apple, Spotify, Acast and other platforms.
  • You can find more World Economic Forum podcasts here.

In the tenth episode of House on Fire we look at what it will take for the global shipping industry to decarbonise. Shipping accounts for 2-3% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which puts it about on the same level as an entire country, such as Germany or Japan, as an emitter. The industry’s emissions are projected to rise by up to 250% in the next 30 years if no action is taken.


Not surprisingly, pressure is building on industry chiefs, and a goal has been set to halve carbon emissions by 2050. But targets and plans are one thing, execution another. Will it happen? We talk to the industry players who don’t see failure as an option.

Johanna Christensen of the Global Maritime Forum tells us that the cost of meeting the current goal is around the $1.4 trillion mark - substantially less than global subsidies to fossil fuels. Tristan Smith of University College London explains why the 2050 deadline is closer than it appears, since the ships of 2050 are already being designed and built today.

We’re given an insight into the technological challenges ahead by Bo Cerup Simonsen of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, as well as the choppy regulatory and policy waters that lie between here and a more sustainable industry. But shipping companies are not alone: a fleet of helpful organisations are on the way in the form of the Getting to Zero Coalition, as Emma Skov Christiansen, shipping emissions lead at the World Economic Forum, explains.

Peter Nuttall speaks for the Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership, an initiative aimed at financing the transition to low carbon shipping in the Pacific Island States, which are on the frontline of the effects of climate change and, of course, very dependent on shipping. He tells us that there’s a danger his region could be left behind by the decarbonisation revolution, and challenges the industry to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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