Climate Week NYC: What is the role of sustainable biofuels in shipping’s decarbonisation?

See also: The Sustainable Shipping Initiative's Journey to Climate Week NYC

As part of its work on decarbonisation in shipping, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) hosted a high-level event during Climate Week NYC 2019 under its Energy Transition track to explore the role of biofuels in the context of the maritime industry’s transition to zero-emission shipping.

What is the role of sustainable biofuels
in shipping's decarbonisation?
New York, 25 September 2019

This event was part of SSI's stakeholder consultation process to investigate the sustainability and availability of biofuels for shipping. We recognise that a number of questions surround the current, and potential future, sustainability and availability of biofuels – and we want to build a better understanding of the issues at play before deciding whether and how to proceed.

There is an urgent need for the radical decarbonisation of shipping. 

It’s time for the maritime industry to play its part in limiting global heating to 1.5°C, by transitioning from the current reliance on fossil fuels towards zero carbon fuels by 2050. Research commissioned by the SSI in 2018 revealed that zero-emission vessels need to be entering the world’s fleet by 2030 – and that advanced biofuels represent one of the more economically feasible options for shipping in that time-frame. 

While some may say “biofuels remain risky territory”– with significant potential for good intentions to result in perverse outcomes – our research suggests there is also potential for certain biofuels to help the shipping industry kickstart its journey towards rapid and full decarbonisation.

At this event we witnessed an inspiring panel of speakers moderated by Sally Uren, Chief Executive of international sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future. Our panelists were:

  • Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Leader of Climate & Energy Practice, WWF
  • Gerard Ostheimer, Managing Director below50, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
  • Christine Weydig, Director, Office of Environmental and Energy Programs, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Adair Turner, Chair, Energy Transitions Commission
  • Kirsi Tikka, Independent Non-Executive Director
  • John Kornerup Bang, Head of Sustainability Strategy & Chief Climate Change Advisor, Maersk

Aligned with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit Energy Transition track, our event shared and anchored our learning across the maritime, sustainability and climate communities. This event represented the culmination of a series of consultations exploring the role of sustainable biofuels in the decarbonization of shipping. The insights from the consultation process and the Climate Week event will feed into a report, on the possible role (if any) of sustainable biofuels for shipping, to be launched at the International Maritime Organization in November 2019.

Climate Week NYC 2019 was a unique opportunity to galvanise stakeholders across and beyond the shipping value chain, demonstrating our commitment through a strong collective voice, concrete actions and by making a tangible contribution to sustainable shipping.