We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones.
To avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, it’s crucial that we shift energy production away from the unsustainable fossil fuels that cause climate change and towards those that release little to no greenhouse gases (GHG), such as solar and wind power. To meet our climate goals, a massive acceleration in the global deployment of clean- energy technologies is needed now. Generating renewable energy from offshore wind and decarbonizing the shipping industry can provide large ocean-based climate-mitigation opportunities in the United States and globally, and these are essential elements of a clean energy future.
These two key ocean-climate solutions were featured at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum (GCEAF) which brought together clean-energy leaders from around the world to accelerate the clean-energy transition. These leaders represented governments, international organizations, the private sector, academia and civil society. More than 6,000 people participated in the Forum and roughly 150 different events intended to drive concrete action to implement clean energy commitments that build on historic advancements in innovative technologies and investments.
Clean energy is key to national security.
The key takeaway from the Forum was the critical need to speed up the deployment of existing clean-energy tools and technologies that will reverse the current emissions trends and keep the planet on a path towards warming of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Underscoring this theme was the need for the clean energy transition as a national security imperative. The Ukrainian Minister of Energy, German Galushchenko, delivered this message most clearly and discussed how the war in Ukraine has created massive volatility in global energy markets which could lead to an international energy war. He spoke about how a clean-energy transition is key to achieving energy independence and security for his nation and beyond. This was echoed by the Small Island Developing States in attendance, including the Maldives, Seychelles and Tuvalu, regarding their countries’ continued reliance on expensive diesel for meeting energy needs. The clean-energy transition is an essential solution, not only for the climate crisis but also for achieving national independence, security and prosperity.
Green hydrogen has an important role to play in the clean-energy transition.
In addition to the focus on renewable energy sources, many experts highlighted the role of green hydrogen in meeting the demands of a clean-energy future. Hydrogen took center stage due to the role it could play in sectors, like shipping, in which getting to zero-carbon is complicated. This is a problem that will require major investments in research, development and deployment of low- and zero-emission fuels, vessels that can run on those fuels, and ports that can service those vessels while eliminating their own emissions. One solution is to deploy Green Shipping Corridors, essentially zero-emission routes between two or more ports, which can incentivize early and rapid adoption of green fuels and technologies. Developing Green Shipping Corridors, including the key elements of green ports and zero-emissions alternative fuels, were highlighted as crucial next steps for collaboration between the maritime and green hydrogen industry, which could speed up the deployment of and demand for green hydrogen while globally reducing emissions from the shipping sector.
Green Shipping Corridors emerge as the or a key implementation tool for decarbonizing global shipping.
In addition, there were updates of ongoing efforts to guide and support Green Shipping Corridors throughcommitments made by ports to help reduce their GHG emissions and air pollution. Green ports are essential to the development of successful green corridors and enable the transformation of the entire shipping value chain. Some examples we heard include, but are not limited to, the Port of Seattle stepping up to partner with cruise ships, communities, nonprofits and industry on developing green corridors, and the Port of San Diego creating a maritime clean air strategy.
United States’ climate and clean-energy investments are poised to make a global impact.
This year two massive pieces of legislation were signed into law with critical investments in transportation, infrastructure and climate: the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Notably the recent IRA bill is recognized as “once in a generation” funding to jump-start a clean-energy transition, which will decrease America’s GHG emissions by an estimated 40% by 2030. From offshore wind to clean hydrogen to clean shipping, the IIJA and IRA bills were pointed to as essential pieces of legislation that will help the United States decarbonize and meet our climate goals.
The list highlights several of the new ocean-relevant announcements that came from the Global Clean Energy Action Forum and the other high-level climate events this fall:
- United States unveils draft national clean-hydrogen strategy and roadmap: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a draft National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, setting the goal for the United States to produce 50 million tonnes of clean hydrogen per year by 2050, up from “nearly zero” today.
- 10 More Leading Shippers Join Initiative for Maritime Decarbonization: The Aspen Institute announced that 10 more leading companies joined the Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV) initiative, more than doubling the number of shippers that have committed to accelerating the transition to zero-carbon maritime shipping.
- Global Offshore Wind Alliance (GOWA) announced: During an event at Climate Week NYC, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and the government of Denmark announced that they are forming a new Global Offshore Wind Alliance (GOWA) with the goal of helping the world install 380 GW of offshore wind by 2030.
- DOE opens $7B hydrogen hub funding opportunity & issues draft production standard: The U.S. DOE is now accepting applications for $7 billion in funding to develop at least a six regional clean-hydrogen hubs across the country.
- Green Corridors: Feasibility phase blueprint: The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, in a joint effort with McKinsey & Company, has developed a new blueprint for designing, assessing and demonstrating the feasibility of green corridors that serves as a ready-to-use guide for any stakeholder involved in green corridors for decarbonizing shipping.
- Ports for People: Pacific Environment announced its “Ports for People” initiative “to transform ports from hotspots of fossil fuel pollution to thriving hubs of sustainable economic development and environmental protection.”
- Pacific Environment & Opportunity Green release ports playbook for zero-emission ocean shipping: In connection with Climate Week NYC 2022, Pacific Environment and Opportunity Green released a playbook for ports to accelerate action in the race to a zero-emission ocean shipping future.
Momentum Toward COP27
Right now international leaders are travelling to COP27, the largest international convening to solve the climate crisis. The announcements from GCEAF can help make progress towards meeting our global decarbonization goals, however, previous climate commitments have still not been met and global emissions continue to rise. To meet our climate goals, nations must work to meet their existing commitments and will need to set more ambitious targets as the window for staying within our 1.5-degree Celsius target gets smaller and smaller. Therefore, implementation and deployment will continue to be a critical focus at COP27 next week.
Climate change poses the single biggest threat to our ocean and to the future of the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions must reach net zero by 2050 to keep global warming under 1.5°C—the threshold set by scientists to avoid the most severe impacts from climate change. This will require the transformation of nearly every sector of the global economy, including the often-overlooked ocean-based sectors. Learn more about how the ocean can help us tackle climate change here.