UCL Energy Institute


Dr Tristan Smith comments on shipping giant Maersk's 2050 carbon neutral pledge

12 December 2018

Writing for online magazine Splash, UCL Energy Institute's Dr Tristan Smith explains why he thinks the Danish shipping giant is now aiming to go carbon-neutral.

Aerial view of container ship - Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

AP Moller Maersk is the world's largest container shipping company, so its recent announcement (Financial Times £) that it would cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 is a “major step forward” for the industry, according to Dr Tristan Smith of the UCL Energy Insitute's shipping research group. 

However, in his recent article for Splash magazine, Dr Smith also highlights that the move is unlikely to be altruistic, since “Swathes of companies that use shipping ... increasingly demand zero GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from their suppliers”. It could simply be that the company is basing its decision on the inevitable outcome of the UN International Maritime Organization's emission target for 2050 (to cut the shipping sector's overall CO2 output by 50%) and is trying to get ahead of its competitors.

While welcoming the announcement as an “unambiguous signal ... that the future is zero emissions”, Dr Smith also highlights the risk that Maersk is “leaving open the option to use biofuels to reach these targets”, with all their inherent supply and sustainability challenges. 

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