Amazon’s new net zero carbon pledge focuses on marine fuels

Amazon and IKEA are among the big companies pushing the maritime industry to introduce carbon-free fuel sources for ships by 2040.

According to the Clean Air Task Force, which worked with the Aspen Institute on a plan to accelerate a carbon-free shipping marketplace among the world’s largest cargo ship owners, ocean shipping emits 1 billion tons of carbon annually. Tuesday’s announcement included other consumer-facing companies such as Patagonia, Brooks Running, Inditex, Michelin, Unilever, Tchibo and Frog Bikes. The announcement did not include freight companies.

In 2018, the International Maritime Organization set itself the first goal of reducing CO2 emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008.

According to investigations by the Clean Air Task Force, a large part of the international shipping fleet would have to switch to carbon-free fuels for the IMO to achieve its goals. CATF has cited ammonia as a likely option for shipping, although it has found ammonia to be around 3-7 times more expensive than traditional marine fuel.

His research also suggests liquefied natural gas as a transitional solution – but only transitional fuel – and small nuclear power plants as an unexplored option for the future. It estimated that ships could switch to LNG for a 15% reduction in CO2, but that number would depend on methane emissions being reduced “well below current levels”.

“To tackle the climate crisis, we need to quickly decarbonise shipping,” said Jonathon Lewis, director of Transportation Decarbonization at CATF, in a statement the merchant consortium announced.

CATF stated in its study that US shipping is responsible for 80 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, a number that continues to grow tonnes.

CATF suggests making marine ammonia from renewable energy sources (known as green ammonia), nuclear power, or carbon capture and storage in industries such as fossil fuels (known as blue ammonia). However, there is still a long way to go to “make marine ammonia a reality”.

Current ammonia production has a carbon footprint, mainly from the fertilizer industry.

In March of this year, several of the major cargo companies including Maersk, Fleet Management Limited, Keppel Offshore & Marine, Sumitomo Corporation and Yara International began a study of a green ammonia supply chain in the port of Singapore.

“Ammonia does not emit CO2 when burned and has long been considered one of the most promising alternative marine fuels for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the shipping industry,” the group said in a statement.

“So far it is unclear which measures could be taken to achieve the emission reductions sought by the IMO (let alone reductions compatible with the Paris Agreement), but it is unlikely that this will be achieved through technology alone,” writes CATF in its report to decarbonise transport. And it said: “The switch to ammonia requires intensive, globally coordinated efforts.”

In March 2018, the IMO itself introduced a mandatory data collection system for heating oil consumption by ships and set itself the goal by 2025 that new ships will be 30% more energy-efficient than those built in 2014 in accordance with their plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

In recent years, Amazon has stepped up its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint while taking more control over its massive logistics activities. In 2019, Amazon first announced its commitment to meet the Paris Agreement goals through the use of renewable energy and new transportation technologies such as electric delivery vehicles 10 years ahead of the Paris schedule.

Among the most notable investments in carbon-free transportation is electric vehicle maker Rivian, which has raised billions from venture investors like Amazon. The retail giant plans to buy 100,000 electric vehicles from Rivian, and by 2020 Amazon says it has already shipped over 20 million packages of electric vehicles. The retail giant launched its custom electric delivery vehicles earlier this year and says it will have 10,000 vehicles on the roads by 2022.

Amazon’s own logistics presence has grown in recent years due to direct competition with third-party shipping service providers. By 2028, Amazon is expected to purchase 200 aircraft to meet its freight needs.

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