Several governments and organisations have pledged further green shipping commitments at the Cop27 climate summit, as the maritime sector prepares for next year’s tighter regulation of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The US and Norway launched the Green Shipping Challenge last week during the world leaders summit and called on governments, ports and businesses to accelerate the industry’s decarbonisation as part of efforts to fulfil the Paris Agreement.

The maritime sector currently represents 2.9% of total GHG emissions, according to the OECD, with around 90% of traded goods transported by ship and seaborne trade volumes predicted to triple by 2050.

Among the Challenge announcements was the UK’s pledge to create bilateral green shipping corridors with the US, Norway and the Netherlands. This marks progress on the Clydebank Declaration agreed at Cop26, which aims to establish at least six net-zero emission routes by 2025.

The Challenge commitments also included an update from Amazon, which says it has purchased a “bio-based fuel service to help reduce carbon emissions” and invested in Amogy, a startup that aims to develop ammonia as a fuel for cargo ships. Last year, climate campaigners called for Amazon, Ikea, Target and Walmart to urgently switch to zero-emissions shipping after the companies were found to have generated 20 million tonnes of carbon emissions in two years.

Green fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia are likely to form a significant part of the industry’s response to climate change. Speaking on the Producing Future Marine Fuels panel at Cop27, Nicolas Peltier, global transport director at the World Bank, highlighted the need for first movers when it comes to investing in and developing green fuels.

“At the moment, the shipping industry is facing a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. Progressive ship owners lack the incentive to invest in zero carbon ships, as long as there is no large-scale zero carbon fuel supply,” he said. “In return, potential fuel suppliers wait for a clear signal that zero carbon ships are on order before they are willing to place their investments in correspondingly growing fuel production facilities.”

Also speaking on the panel, Francesco La Camera, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), emphasised the huge quantities of green fuel that will be needed.

“IRENA estimates that roughly 800 terajoules of advanced biofuels and 50 million tonnes of green hydrogen, mostly in the form of ammonia, will be needed to decarbonise shipping,” he said. “But just as importantly, shipping will be involved with the trade of another 75 million tonnes of green hydrogen each year, critical to the decarbonisation of other industrial sectors.”

The shipping sector faces ambitious targets for reducing GHG emissions, with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) aiming at a 40% reduction in carbon intensity – which relates to GHG emissions, the amount of cargo carried and the distance travelled – by 2030.

In November this year, a series of technical and operational amendments came into force that require ships to improve their short-term energy efficiency. These measures, which will become mandatory from 1 January 2023, will see ships over 400 gross tonnage obliged to calculate their energy efficiency and ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above to report their annual carbon intensity.