UCL Energy Institute


Reducing shipping industry's carbon emissions is 'major progress'

16 April 2018

Dr Tristan Smith has welcomed the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) commitment to significantly cut the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, deeming proposals ‘major progress'

Freight Shipping

Following a five day conference in London, the IMO today (Friday 13 April), announced an initial global plan to reduce GHG emission levels by at least 50% over the next three decades. Further work, including the development and deployment of legally binding policy measures, is expected over the next few years. A revised plan will be delivered in 2023.

Dr Tristan Smith has been providing technical information to the IMO debates and played a leading role in recent UK-led research, which assessed what steps needed to be taken to achieve decarbonisation in the world’s shipping industry. 

“The International Maritime Organization’s commitment to reduce GHG by 50 to 100% in 2050 is major progress; the world’s shipping industry has now, for the first time, defined its commitment to tackle climate change, bringing it closer in-line with the Paris Agreement,” Dr Smith said.

“It is likely this target will tighten further, but even with the lowest level of ambition, the shipping industry will require rapid technological changes to produce zero-emission ships, moving from fossil fuels, to a combination of electricity (batteries), renewable fuels derived from hydrogen, and potentially bioenergy.

“While such changes are massive for a global industry, which has a fleet of more than 50,000 ships trading internationally, UK-led research has shown that with the correct level of investment and better regulation, these reductions can be achieved.”


Dr Tristan Smith profile

Low carbon shipping research

International Maritime Organisation


Dr Tristan Smith played a key role in £5m research, funded by RCUK, which was set up to see what actions needed to be taken to achieve decarbonisation in the shipping industry.

Academics from five UK universities, namely UCL, Newcastle, Strathclyde, Southampton, Manchester, Plymouth and Hull, along with multinational corporations, including Shell, Lloyd’s Register, BMT, MSI and Rolls Royce, looked into the technologies and combinations of technologies that are needed, to significantly reduce carbon emissions, along with the expectations for growth in shipping trade, and the market response to different policies that could achieve reductions.



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