In support of the effort to achieve global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050, and in support of the effort to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions from the international shipping sector by the same year, the United States is charting a course to advance domestic and international green shipping corridors.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping sector are significant and rising. Shipping would be the eighth largest emitter if it were a “country,” and by 2050, emissions from the sector are projected to increase by up to 50% from 2018 levels under a business-as-usual scenario. This trajectory is not compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement. To support the effort to achieve global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050, the United States has committed to work with countries to reach zero emissions from international shipping by the same year.
Green shipping corridors can spur early and rapid adoption of fuels and technologies that, on a lifecycle basis, deliver low- and zero-emissions across the maritime sector, placing the sector on a pathway to full decarbonization. The United States envisions green shipping corridors as maritime routes that showcase low- and zero-emission lifecycle fuels and technologies with the ambition to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions across all aspects of the corridor in support of sector-wide decarbonization no later than 2050. There are multiple pathways through which a fully decarbonized corridor can be achieved; this green shipping corridors framework therefore provides maritime stakeholders the flexibility to choose the path that best suits their needs.
There is a growing movement of countries and non-state actors that are focused on green shipping corridors. In addition, private sector actors, including major users of maritime shipping, are increasingly making climate commitments and seeking opportunities to decarbonize their supply chains. For our part, the United States is partnering internationally, working on implementation domestically, and investing in the research and development needed to help ensure we have the solutions necessary to meet our commitments.1 Within this growing movement, however, there is not yet a shared understanding of what it means for a maritime corridor to be “green.” This document is intended to contribute to a common vision of green shipping corridors and advance the effort to establish them across the ocean and along coasts and inland waterways, so that maritime stakeholders may act as a united front to tackle the climate crisis.
Charting a Course for Green Shipping Corridors
Achieving zero emissions from maritime transportation over the coming years and decades will require research, development, demonstration, and deployment at a massive scale, as well as enabling policies that incentivize the shift to low- and zero-emission fuels and technologies as soon as possible. Adoption of these fuels and technologies, while limited in the short term, will rapidly accelerate once the supply chain is established and governments and the shipping sector signal their intent for energy transition.
Green shipping corridors are meant to accelerate this early adoption phase. They therefore should strive for emissions reductions that push the envelope beyond business-as-usual, demonstrating a commitment to achieve full decarbonization through sustained efforts. Green shipping corridors will not achieve zero emissions across all aspects of the corridor overnight. Instead, the journey to establish a fully decarbonized corridor is a series of steps and actions taken over time to cover all aspects of the route.
One of the first steps in creating a green shipping corridor is to convene relevant stakeholders across the value chain and to outline anticipated timelines, targets, and achievements. Creating a fully decarbonized green shipping corridor is a process, which will require long-term plans to help participants achieve their emissions reduction goals. Stakeholder engagement will be critical, especially with residents in communities with environmental justice concerns, to ensure strategies are tailored to address the priorities and goals of near-port communities.
Demonstrating Progress and Success
In the effort to confront the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and drive maritime emissions to zero, it is not enough to only announce intentions. Ports, carriers, and other actors in the value chain are encouraged to demonstrate progress, commitment, and accountability. Local and state governments, as well as the Federal Government, can help by convening stakeholders, enforcing regulations, and crafting policy that supports green corridor development. All stakeholders should share information on green corridor development on a regular basis and to be as transparent as possible in the data and information shared.
Such information sharing should include publication of baseline emissions and energy inventories with regular updates on progress toward targets and goals. As additional data on the successes of the corridor operations become available, those data should be reported using verifiable methods and metrics that can be replicated over time to demonstrate improvement. This data and information sharing helps to ensure that metrics and calculations are comparable across other corridors and varying technologies, sharing information for those considering similar measures and providing unbiased information for decision-making. To achieve zero-emission operations, stakeholders should use lifecycle emissions assessment tools and analyses that incorporate internationally accepted methodologies.
Participants in a green shipping corridor effort should be transparent not only about data but also about their role in the effort. As such, publicly available information should also include value-chain actors such as ports, terminal operators, vessel owners and operators, charter companies, beneficial cargo owners, and others such as logistics companies that are engaged in this important effort.
Building Blocks for Green Shipping Corridors
Planning for green corridors should consider the needs and abilities of all corridor stakeholders. Possible components of the green shipping corridor planning process could include, but are not limited to:
- Identify and convene relevant stakeholders
- Define the scope, boundaries, metrics, and the framework for analysis
- Incorporate lifecycle-emissions estimates into equipment, materials, and fueling infrastructure planning and development decisions
- Estimate a baseline emissions inventory for port and/or vessel operations that can be publicly available and used to craft emissions reduction targets
- Work with stakeholders and communities to develop an implementation plan that outlines a pathway to achieving emissions reductions targets
Building on the planning process, there are a number of building blocks for implementation of green corridors to reach the goal of full decarbonization. Elements of this implementation process could include, but are not limited to, the deployment and/or operation of:
- Alternative refueling or recharging infrastructure to support zero emissions port and terminal equipment operations
- Support vessels and commercial harbor craft using low- or zero-emissionfuels and technologies
- Ocean-going vessels using low- or zero-emission fuels and technologies
- Zero-emissions fuels, bunkering, and refueling capabilities for vesselsincluding electrification and cold ironing
- Energy efficiency and operations optimization activities that lead to reduced overall energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Green shipping corridors are a key means of spurring the early adoption of zero-emission fuels and technologies that will help place the sector on a credible pathway to achieve zero emissions no later than 2050. The United States welcomes and encourages the growing movement to establish green shipping corridors and calls on countries and value-chain actors around the world to adopt ambitious actions to implement green shipping corridors and to create a clean future for maritime transportation.